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Twin Metals Minnesota Mining in Superior National Forest, USA

Proposed Twin Metals Minnesota Mining Threatens Pristine Public Lands, public health, Treaty of 1854, and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa wild rice gathering lands in the Rainy River Watershed, MN.


In January 2010, Duluth Metals Limited, a Canadian mining company, identified the valuable metal concentrations of the Maturi deposit in Northeastern Minnesota, claiming that the area would be the newest development for the mining industry of the United States [1]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Twin Metals Minnesota Mining in Superior National Forest, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Minnesota
Location of conflict:Superior National Forest
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Copper
Rare metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Since 2010, Twin Metals Minnesota (TMM) has invested $450 million in their proposed mining project in the Superior National Forest [9]. By the time of construction, TMM expects to invest a total of $1.7 billion. The project would involve about 5,000 acres of federal public land in the Superior National Forest. The hope of TMM is to create a mine that spans underground for 30,000 acres, which would be connected to a 100-acre mineral processing facility via 1 mile of pipeline. The project has been nicknamed the “underground city” and would involve miles of tunnels blasted below the surface with massive earth moving machines extracting the mineral material [3]. If permitted, Twin Metals Minnesota hopes to mine in the area for at least twenty-five years. The sheer size of the facility will allow the mine to process around 20,000 tons of mineralized ore per day using their underground operations system [1]. The company claims that it would bring economic prosperity to the area, hoping to create 700 full-time jobs as well as 1400 spin off jobs for the residents of the nearby towns. Their hope is that the promise of employment will resonate in Minnesota’s Iron Range, as the area has lost a quarter of its mining jobs since 2000 [10]. Additionally, the company advertises that they would generate significant tax and royalty revenue that would support nearly 900,000 K-12 students statewide [11]. Since the start of the Trump administration, Twin Metals has ramped up its lobbying in Washington, resulting in a total expenditure of $900,000 [10].

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Project area:12,140
Level of Investment for the conflictive project450,000,000.00
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:Population of Rainy River Watershed
Start of the conflict:01/01/2010
Company names or state enterprises:ANTOFAGASTA MINERALS (Grupo Luksic) (ANTO) from Chile
Twin Metals Minnesota (TMM) from United States of America
Relevant government actors:U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Forest Service, Trump Administration, The State of Minnesota: Department of Natural Resources
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Save the Boundary Waters
Voyageur Outward Bound School
Friends of the Boundary Waters
River Point Resort
The Boundary Waters Action Fund
Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Center for Biological Diversity
The Wilderness Society
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local businesses, Chippewa (also known as the Ojibwe) peoples
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Other Environmental impactsRunoff and/or toxic waste pollution from the mine will cause surface water, soil, and groundwater contamination. The nearby water bodies are likely to be severely contaminated.
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsIf the soil and water is contaminated by the mine, then methylmercury will accumulate in the aquatic systems as well as in food grown in the soil. Methylmercury is toxic for human consumption, and will therefore cause negative health impacts. Specifically, the Fond du Lac Band of the Minnesota Chippewa are at risk of consuming toxins, as they cultivate large amounts of wild rice on the land nearby.
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsThe Fond du Lac Band of the Minnesota Chippewa are guaranteed by treaty the right to cultivate wild rice on the land of the Boundary Waters. Pollution and contamination of this land will disrupt their foodway and their harvesting traditions.
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Environmental groups are fighting for the complete outlaw of the development of a copper-nickel mine in the Boundary Waters watershed. Due to this, Twin Metals Minnesota should not be allowed to continue operations in their proposed location. An alternative location could be considered, yet it would be unlikely that Twin Metals would desire a location further from the Maturi deposit. Frankly, the Boundary Waters Watershed is not the right spot for this mine, and any alternative routes of development should involve a different location.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The Twin Metals Minnesota mining proposal has not yet been approved and justice will depend upon a full environmental impact assessment and the outcome of the ongoing litigation and the current Biden Administration. This issue could have been an environmental justice success when the Obama administration withheld the mineral leases from TMM; however, since the Trump administration has reinstated the mineral leases, it is obvious that the federal agenda is to strengthen the mining industry, no matter the consequences. Justice should be served to the indigenous and rural populations of the Boundary Waters watershed, yet only time will tell if this will happen. With the Trump Administration's recent executive order to fast track domestic mining, the threat against the Superior National Forest continues and the conflict remains ongoing. Now, the Biden Administration is examining the project proposal and will either refuse the project as claimed by activist and EJOs, or will allow the project.
Sources & Materials

[1] Twin Metals Minnesota. (2019, December). About The Project. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
[click to view]

[2] Tabuchi, H., & Eder, S. (2019, June 25). A Plan to Mine the Minnesota Wilderness Hit a Dead End. Then Trump Became President. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[3] The Sierra Club. (2018, May 26). Twin Metals. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[4] Minnesota Chippewa. (2019, December). Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[5] Timmer, S., Snyder, E., Timmer, S., Berkelman, T., Flanagan, Musich, J., … Tribal Cooperating Agencies. (2019, September 12). At issue in Minnesota's sulfide mining debate: environmental justice. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[6] MPR News. (2019, July 18). Twin Metals pitches new method of storing waste at proposed mine near BWCA. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[7] Marcotty, J. (2017, December 23). Feds reject Obama-era ruling that blocked mining on edge of BWCA. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[8] Bjorhus, J. (2019, April 18). Minnesota group ramps up court challenge to Trump rulings on Twin Metals mining leases. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[9] Olsen, T. (2019, November 22). DNR to complete independent review of Twin Metals. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[10] Tabuchi, H., & Eder, S. (2019, June 25). A Plan to Mine the Minnesota Wilderness Hit a Dead End. Then Trump Became President. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[11] Twin Metals Minnesota. (2019, April). Fact Sheet: Twin Metals Federal Lawsuit to Protect Mineral...Retrieved December 10, 2019.
[click to view]

[13] Grandoni, D., and Eilperin, J. (2018, January 26). Trump administration cancels detailed review of Obama-era mining ban near Minnesota wilderness. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
[click to view]

[14] The White House. (2020, 30 September). President Donald J. Trump Is Protecting Our Domestic Mining Industry and Critical Minerals Supply Chains. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
[click to view]

[15] Schneider, G. (2020, 2 October). What Trump’s new executive order actually means for mining in Minnesota, Retrieved October 26, 2020.
[click to view]

[16] Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. (2020, August 5). Update: 5 Lawsuits to Protect the BWCA. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
[click to view]

[17] MPR News 2021: The Biden administration is poised to weigh in on Twin Metals mine: Here are the options
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Emily Chase, Skidmore College, [email protected]; Siddharth Nizamuddin, Skidmore College; Amity Wilson, Skidmore College; A.J. Schneller, Skidmore College
Last update18/10/2021
Conflict ID:4933
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