The Star Tribune Editorial Board has taken the position that the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine proposed near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should not proceed. Here are steps leaders could take:
AT THE STATE LEVEL
1) The state does not move forward on a Twin Metals mine plan. Gov. Tim Walz could direct his agencies or commissioners to take no further action to review a Twin Metals mine plan.
2) The executive branch could use rulemaking to strengthen state environmental standards near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This would include establishing stronger state standards for air and water quality and for other state permits that provide for no degradation of the environment in the BWCA watershed.
3) The state’s Executive Council could use its authority to protect the Boundary Waters going forward. Gov. Walz, as chair of the state Executive Council and Land Exchange Board, could ensure that no executive actions are undertaken to grant new nonferrous mining mineral leases or extend or allow for transfers of existing leases in the BWCA watershed.
4) The Minnesota Legislature could take action to ban hardrock mining in the BWCA watershed. Legislation could be passed to permanently withdraw state lands in the BWCA watershed from the state nonferrous mining program. This could be accomplished by amending Minnesota Statute 84.523, which was adopted in 1976 to protect the Boundary Waters from mining.
AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
1) Congress could force the Trump administration to finish the study that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue canceled. It could compel the completion of the so-called “mineral withdrawal” study undertaken by the U.S. Forest Service. It also could require the report to be made public without delay.
2) Permanently protect the Boundary Waters. Congress can pass legislation that would permanently withdraw 234,328 acres of Superior National Forest lands in the Rainy River Drainage Basin from the federal mining program. This type of protection was provided to protected areas in Montana and Washington state in 2019.
3) Reverse the Trump’s administrative actions. If a new president is elected in 2020, he or she could take all actions necessary to reverse Trump’s efforts to speed the Twin Metals mine toward eventual approval.