BLM renews hardrock mineral leases in the Superior National Forest
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Joe Balash, today renewed two Twin Metals Minnesota LLC-held hardrock mineral leases located on the Superior National Forest in Northeastern Minnesota.
“Mining on public lands balances conservation strategies and policies with the need to produce minerals that add value to the lives of all Americans by providing raw materials used in the manufacture of medical aids, automobiles, smart phones and computers, and household appliances,” said Assistant Secretary Balash. “Under President Trump’s leadership and direction from the Secretary, this action may reduce the vulnerability to disruption of critical mineral supplies if it leads to the development and production of critical minerals in an environmentally responsible, regulatory-consistent, and economically feasible manner. Mining strategic metals in the United States is beneficial to national security, national and local economies, and job creation.”
“In northeastern Minnesota, mining is our past, our present, and our future. We know that with modern technology, we can develop the resources that all Americans utilize and create a boon for Minnesota, while preserving our precious environment," said U.S. Congressman Pete Stauber (MN-08). "I commend Secretary Bernhardt and the Trump Administration for rightfully returning to the process that was in place decades prior to the Obama Administration’s reckless political mineral withdrawal and giving our hardworking miners the opportunity to meet or exceed all environmental standards.”
Significant Public Input
The non-discretionary renewal of hardrock mineral leases MNES 01352 and MNES 01353 follows the public disclosure of the draft Environmental Assessment that commenced the public review and comment period on December 20, 2018. The draft Environmental Assessment addressed whether to modify the terms and conditions and add additional stipulations to the leases or whether to renew the leases with their existing terms and conditions. The public review and comment period concluded on January 30, 2019, following a 41-day public review and comment period. The Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) received more than 39,000 comments during this period. Those comments have informed the Department of the Interior’s decision to modify the terms and conditions of the leases, as well as to add environmentally protective stipulations, prior to the Department’s renewal of the leases.
The final Environmental Assessment, Decision Record, comment analysis report, and signed leases can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xmmJe.
If and when Twin Metals Minnesota LLC submits a formal Mine Plan of Operation to the Bureau, the Bureau would prepare a detailed Environmental Impact Statement that would thoroughly analyze the potential environmental impacts from the proposed mine. Public involvement at the scoping and draft Environmental Impact Statement phase would be conducted in accordance with 40 C.F.R. § 1506.6.
To prevent public lands from being indefinitely encumbered by these leases with no benefit to the public, the terms placed on the renewed leases include new diligent development requirements, whereby the lessee is obligated to submit a complete, proposed mine plan of operations, obtain all necessary permits, and meet certain project milestones for mine construction within this ten-year term, or the leases will be terminated. The renewed lease terms also disallow the use of strip mining, rim cutting, or open pit mining methods, among other environmentally protective measures.
Consistent with Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, signed by President Trump on March 26, 2017 and Secretarial Order 3359, Critical Mineral Independence and Security, Interior has renewed these hard rock mineral leases for the purpose of developing “world-class” deposits of copper, nickel, and palladium minerals on the Superior National Forest. The Bureau is entrusted with managing these onshore federal mineral resources on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield, which includes facilitating their development while also requiring mitigation of environmental impacts.
The BLM currently oversees 41 additional mineral applications in the Superior National Forest. These include existing prospecting permits, new prospecting permit applications, applications to extend prospecting permits, and three Preference Right Lease Applications. A list of these permits and applications can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xmmJe.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $111 billion in economic output across the country in fiscal year 2019—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 498,000 jobs.