ELY, MN — A controversial copper-nickel mining project near the Boundary Waters is inching closer towards an environmental review process.
A move by the Trump administration last month renewing federal mineral leases for Twin Metals cleared a major hurdle for the project.
In this week’s Eye on Mining CBS 3 got an inside look at the company’s progress and what comes next.
Down a dirt road, surrounded by trees and a lot of mosquitos, Twin Metals is studying what’s below the surface.
“This is a hydro-well site,” said Dean DeBeltz, Director of Operations and Safety for Twin Metals. “We’re installing a pump at roughly 2,300 feet below ground so that we can take water quality samples and do baseline studies to help support the project.”
The wells on this particular day were being installed on state land where the company holds mineral leases.
“So the goal of these wells to measure water levels, water interaction at various levels, is really to understand what is the water doing? Water is our most precious resource, we recognize that and we want to ensure that as we move forward that we don’t impact water as our resource.”
Twin Metals was formed as a joint venture in 2010.
“We’ve done exploration as we need to do to make sure that the minerals are there and they’re worth opening an underground mine.”
DeBeltz said now, the company is preparing to open its books to the public for the first time.
“We’re doing baseline studies to help support the environmental review and a lot of engineering work to understand how we can make this all come together and make that submittal to the agencies.”
But it hasn’t been without controversy.
“If there are concerns about the sulfides, that’s what we’re getting out of the ground and we want to take those as part of our product.”
With plans to open an underground mine near the Boundary Waters, questions and concerns have flooded in.
“The reason for an underground mine is the depth of our minerals and the geometry of the deposit. So there’s no waste rock involved with mining here, there’s no um, we minimize our surface disturbance and we target the minerals that we’re after,” said DeBeltz.
Debeltz says they believe the environmental review process will resolve some of those concerns.
“As we approach this in a scientific way we can’t impact the data. The data is what it is, so our hope is that the data shows us that we won’t have an impact on water as our resource.”
While still in the early stages, DeBeltz said Twin Metals is looking forward to the year ahead.
“For us it’s exciting because we can talk factually about what the project is, what we’re submitting to the agencies, and what this project will look like in the future.”
Twin Metals plans to submit its Mine Plan of Operation to the agencies in the second half of 2019.