Twin Metals team reviews the mine site. (Photo: Twin Metals Minnesota)

On Wednesday, January 26, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) reversed its position on two hard rock mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota. This comes after the DOI said the leases were improperly renewed in 2019.

Twin Metals Minnesota and its predecessor companies have held the leases for more than 50 years and said the action was “disappointing, but not surprising.”

“We will challenge this attempt to stop our project and defend our valid existing mineral rights,” the company said. “We expect to prevail.”

The company proposed an underground copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mine that it said deserves to be evaluated through the established environmental review process. The proposal was submitted more than two years ago to state and federal agencies and was the culmination of more than a decade of engineering, hydrogeological, environmental and engagement work that maximizes environmental protection.

“We are confident that a full environmental review will show that the science behind this modern mine will prove that we can advance this project safely under the highest of standards,” the company said.

According to the DOI, the Office of Solicitor found significant legal deficiencies in the circumstances surrounding the 2019 renewal, including the lease renewal forms contravened the department’s regulations; the department did not duly recognize the U.S. Forest Service’s consent authority; and the inadequate environmental analysis failed to include a no-renewal, no-action alternative.

The U.S. Forest Service issued a decision withholding consent to the renewal of two mineral leases in 2016, citing the risk of environmental contamination of the surrounding watershed as a key concern. Subsequently, the BLM rejected the renewal application submitted by Twin Metals Minnesota. In 2019, the DOI renewed the expired leases and granted their renewal.

The National Mining Association said, “The administration’s decision to withdrawal Twin Metals’ mineral leases — long held leases that were first issued more than five decades ago — contradicts and will obstruct the realization of the goals established in its own stated jobs, economic, climate, infrastructure and supply chain agendas.”

Decisions like this one will deepen the country’s heavy dependency on foreign sources for the minerals that could be sourced in the U.S., the NMA said. “In fact, the Twin Metals project could supply decade’s worth of copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals,” the NMA added. “These are the same minerals needed for the clean energy transition and severe supply constraints are forecast.”