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Copper-mining supporters to boycott St. Paul hearing

Supporters of copper-mining projects near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness say they will boycott a public hearing on the issue slated for July 18 in St.Paul.

The U.S. Forest Service is holding the hearing to take public input on their plan for a two-year moratorium on mining near the BWCAW and a generic environmental review of potential copper -mining impacts on the regional watershed.

A similar meeting was held earlier this year in Duluth, and a third meeting is slated for July 25 in Virginia.

But the pro-mining groups say the St. Paul meeting should not have been scheduled, apparently because it’s being held in the Twin Cities where a large number of copper-mining opponents live.

The group Jobs for Minnesotans, the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, the Laurentian Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council and the United Steelworkers say they won’t go to the St. Paul meeting.

“The newly announced third hearing for St. Paul is about politics, theatrics and allowing mining critics to stuff the comment box,” the groups said in a press release Tuesday. “The Iron Range will not bow to this charade. Residents of the Iron Range and mining supporters across the state will stay home on July 18, but will be in attendance in full force in Virginia on July 25.”

The U.S. Forest Service last winter said it was not only holding back federal mineral leases from Twin Metals to advance its proposed mine near the Kawishiwi River southeast of Ely but also was calling for a two-year moratorium on all mining activity across 235,000 acres near the BWCAW  while the general environmental review is taking place. The results could lead to a 20-year moratorium.

Copper-mining critics agree with the Forest Service assessment that copper mining may pose too great a threat to BWCAW waters no matter how many precautions are taken.

Copper-mining supporters say the moratorium subverts the usual process where projects are allowed to advance through environmental review and toward permitting before decisions are made on their potential impact.