Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 27, 2020


Marc Fink, Center for Biological Diversity, (218) 464-0539,
Jeremy Drucker, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, (612) 670-9650,
Alison Flint, The Wilderness Society, (303) 802-1404,

Appeal Targets Mining Permits Near Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota

DULUTH, Minn.— Conservation groups today challenged the Trump administration’s decision to renew 13 prospecting permits that could allow Twin Metals to expand its proposed sulfide-ore copper mine at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in northeastern Minnesota.

“The Trump administration’s scheme to turn this breathtaking region into an industrial mining wasteland can’t be allowed,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Boundary Waters is known around the world for quiet recreation, pristine waters and astounding wildlife habitat. The Twin Metals mine is wildly unpopular, so the administration thought it could sneak these permit approvals past the public. Not on our watch.”

Today’s appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals says the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s May 1 decision ignored potential harm to endangered species and broader damage to the area from Twin Metals’ proposed industrial mining complex. The region is home to three endangered species: Canada lynx, gray wolves and northern long-eared bats.

“In 2016 the U.S. Forest Service found that sulfide-ore copper mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters posed an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the Wilderness,” said Tom Landwehr, executive director of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. “This relentless push by the Bureau of Land Management puts the Boundary Waters and the thousands of jobs dependent on it at risk. We are opposed not just to the Twin Metals mine, but any sulfide-ore mining in the watershed. This type of mining is not compatible with retaining the pure and wild ecosystem of the area.”

The BLM extended Twin Metals’ prospecting permits until 2024. They allow the company to drill holes, conduct road work, and do other mining exploratory work throughout more than 15,000 acres of Superior National Forest. The permits cover the same location as the Chilean-owned Twin Metal’s proposed copper mine and two mineral leases, just upstream from the Boundary Waters’ protected public lands and waterways.

“Twin Metals’ permits were improperly extended under cover of an unprecedented public health crisis with no public notice or engagement,” said Alison Flint, senior legal director at The Wilderness Society. “The move represents another benchmark in the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to fast-track mining that would devastate the Boundary Waters’ abundant clean water and beloved wilderness.”

Twin Metals’ mining proposal would cause severe environmental damage to the region’s forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands that lie between Birch Lake and the edge of the Boundary Waters. The Boundary Waters is America’s most-visited wilderness area.

Despite major controversy over the potential for copper-nickel mining in this sensitive area, the BLM approved Twin Metals’ request to extend the permits without any environmental review, public input or consultation with other agencies.

Today’s appeal was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and The Wilderness Society. The groups are asking the Interior Board of Land Appeals to halt the BLM’s decision and any additional mineral exploration while it considers the appeal.

The BLM also failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act and consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over potential harm to endangered species from extending the mining permits. On May 20 the conservation groups formally notified the BLM of their intent to file suit over the decision.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness is the founder and lead organization for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, a campaign to permanently protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and keep proposed sulfide-ore copper mines out of its wilderness edge.

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 111 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.

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