Federal agencies are holding three virtual public meetings in January about the proposed 20-year moratorium on new mineral leasing near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Superior National Forest in Minnesota.
The meetings are being held via Zoom by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The goal, the agencies said, is to hear public concerns to ensure the environmental analysis addresses them. The Zoom meetings will be also livestreamed on the Bureau of Land Management Eastern States’ YouTube account.
The meetings follow the Biden administration’s announcement in October that it’s restarting an environmental review that was abruptly canceled under former President Donald Trump, which could lead to a 20-year mining moratorium on new minerals leases on 225,387 acres inside Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters. The move immediately started a two-year moratorium on new minerals leasing in that area.
“I have asked the Forest Service to work with the Bureau of Land Management to complete a careful environmental analysis and engage the public on whether future mining should be authorized on any federal land adjacent to this spectacular and unique wilderness resource,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at the time.
Despite the moratorium, Chilean mining company Antofagasta said it plans to move ahead with the $1.7 billion underground copper-nickel mine that it wants to build next to the Boundary Waters. The moratorium does not affect the two federal mineral leases its Twin Metals subsidiary already holds, although the leases remain under court review and in litigation.
The moratorium, however, resulted in the rejection of a preference right lease application and multiple prospecting permit applications Twin Metals had pending, and it’s appealing. The company said the proposed Twin Metals mine is viable without those additional rights.
To provide an official comment during a meeting or attend via Zoom, people must register two days in advance. However, people can drop into the YouTube livestream without registering.
The agencies will use a lottery system to randomly pick people from the registration lists to speak for up to three minutes.
Written comments regarding the moratorium also can be submitted to F. David Radford, Deputy State Director of Geospatial Services, BLM Eastern States Office, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041; or by e-mail to BLM_ES_Lands@blm.gov. Written comments will be accepted through Jan. 19.