Reader's View: Mine owners must be held liable for messes

An LLC could move into an area, open an allegedly safe mine, reap profits, and then declare bankruptcy to avoid liability for environmental destruction.

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In his June 10 column in the News Tribune (Statewide View: Biden (predictably) pulls bait and switch on mining, leaves Minnesota to suffer ”), Isaac Orr of the Center of the American Experiment criticized President Joe Biden for mining restrictions in the U.S. Biden is guilty as charged.

Yet Orr seems to have no issue when a mining conglomerate, owned by a Chilean billionaire, with an abysmal environmental record wants to use a subsidiary to build a sulfide-ore copper mine next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Twin Metals, the company wanting to mine in this pristine area of Minnesota, is a limited liability company. Why is this significant? Because in the U.S., LLC owners are not personally liable for their companies’ debts or liabilities. Think about it for a moment. An LLC could move into an area, open an allegedly safe mine, reap profits, and then declare bankruptcy to avoid liability for environmental destruction.

Think this is far-fetched? Three months ago, a federal bankruptcy court allowed Blackjewel, a Kentucky coal-mine operator, to walk away from its legal and moral responsibility to clean up an environmental disaster it created. This has happened many times in America and will continue to, as long as polluters are not held personally responsible.

It’s a good thing President Donald Trump wasn’t reelected. He seemed to have a cozy relationship with the Chilean owner of Twin Metals, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture under his tenure refused to release environmental-impact information for this mine. Ironically, a 2016 U.S. Forest Service report opposed renewing Twin Metals mining leases, finding that developing a copper-nickel sulfide ore mine near the Boundary Waters would pose an unacceptable risk and could cause serious and irreplaceable harm.


In this modern age, mining is an absolute requirement. But personal and corporate greed must be tempered by environmental and economic morality.

James N. Bragge


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Related Topics: TWIN METALS
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