A pro-mining group in Ely said Tuesday it has refiled a lawsuit against Gov. Mark Dayton over access to state lands for copper-nickel exploration.
The group, Up North Jobs, argued that Dayton's 2016 decision to halt exploration on state-owned lands near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) violated state law and deprived the area of economic development and jobs. Its original lawsuit on the matter, filed last March, was reportedly withdrawn because the group could not find adequate legal representation.
The group has also written to federal officials and members of Minnesota's congressional delegation asking for a moratorium on an environmental review of mining in the Rainy River Watershed, which includes the BWCA and Voyageur's National Park. The two-year review by the U.S. Forest Service, launched under the Obama administration, would determine whether mining is an appropriate use of federal lands on the edge of an ecologically sensitive wilderness.
The lawsuit and the latest letter follow a December decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior to renew exploratory leases for Twin Metals Mining, which is planning a major copper-nickel mining operation on the Kawishiwi River on the edge of the Boundary Waters. The leases had been denied a year earlier under the Obama administration before the environmental review began. Twin Metals is a subsidiary of the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta PLC.
Doug Niemela, manager for the environmental advocacy group Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, said the lawsuit was frivolous.
Twin Metals supporters, he said, are "trying to stop a study they know will show that sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters poses an unacceptable risk to this priceless wilderness."