Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Chilean mining company Antofagasta, has filed a notice of appeal in the US Court of Appeals after a District Court judge dismissed the company’s bid to restore cancelled mining leases in September.
The cancelled leases for the Minnesota copper and nickel mine were worth $1.7bn (1.5trn pesos).
Defending its leases in north-east Minnesota, the company issued a statement calling the dismissal an “unlawful federal agency action”.
In its statement, Twin Metals added that the company, with its long-held mineral rights, “has spent more than 13 years in northeast Minnesota conducting extensive environmental, engineering, exploration, hydrogeological and community engagement work”.
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In January this year, the Biden administration blocked mining in part of north-east Minnesota for 20 years over concerns it could pollute a major recreational waterway and also harm the state’s vast network of interconnected waterways.
The Interior Department also determined that the leases were illegally renewed despite the US Forest Service objecting over concerns that mining could pollute the streams and lakes with potential toxins.
Following this, the Interior Secretary signed an order to withdraw 225,504 acres of land from leasing to mining or geothermal companies through 2043 after a coalition challenged the Trump administration’s decision to allow mining in the area.
Twin Metals acquired the leases in 2011 and was to renew those in 2012. However, the request was denied in 2016 when the Obama administration denied the lease renewal since no mining activity had begun.
In 2019, the Trump administration reversed the order and renewed the leases, which were again cancelled in 2022 by the Biden administration.
In 2022, Twin Metals filed a lawsuit against the US Government to revive the proposed mine, which would have been one of the US’s largest resource pools for metals needed for the green energy transition. The lawsuit challenged the decision of the US Interior Department to cancel leases for an underground mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
In response to the lawsuit, the director of operations and safety at Twin Metals, Dean DeBeltz, added: “Our leases were illegally cancelled by the government, and we want to stand up for what is right and what is prescribed by law.”
In a statement issued on 3 November, Francisco Awad, chief project officer at Twin Metals Minnesota, said: “Twin Metals is committed to securing its federal mineral rights, which are essential to our transition to a clean energy future.
“The team at Twin Metals is shaping the future of sustainable mining while championing environmental responsibility. We can both safely mine for critical minerals and protect our environment. Let’s allow for the environmental review process to demonstrate that.”