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Twin Metals gets leases back from feds

Twin Metals headquarters in Ely. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday said it has reinstated the mining exploration leases for the proposed Twin Metals underground copper mine southeast of Ely.

The move is a reversal of a late Obama administration move that revoked the leases because of the potential harmful impact of copper mining on the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management informed Twin Metals Minnesota of its decision Wednesday. The move comes after the Interior Department in December ruled that the Obama administration ruling to withhold the lease was not lawful. Meanwhile the U.S. Forest Service is mulling how to advance with a study of potential mining impact on the BWCAW, part of which would be downstream of the mine site on the Kawishiwi River.

"Today's action is another step to full restoration of our state's right to explore and advance responsible mining," said U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R- Minn, in a statement on the leases. "As we continue to correct the politically motivated missteps of the Obama administration, I remain committed to bringing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars back to Minnesota and putting our local communities on a path of economic prosperity for years to come."

Mining companies pay a small fee to lease federal land for mining exploration and then, if mining occurs, pay a royalty.

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