The Nov. 24 editorial (“Not this mine. Not this location.”) called on Minnesota to ignore state and federal law by pre-empting an open and transparent process designed to test a proposed project against the state’s strong environmental standards. It repeated misinformation about Twin Metals Minnesota and our parent company, Antofagasta Minerals.
At Twin Metals, we believe that such an action would deny Minnesotans the opportunity to ever know whether this proposal can stand up to the scrutiny of the state’s rigorous environmental review and permitting process.
If our project can stand up to that scrutiny, we will build the most advanced underground mine in the United States and establish more than 700 mining jobs, provide thousands of union labor construction hours and offer more than 1,400 support jobs in northeastern Minnesota. If the project can’t stand up to the scrutiny, the mine will not earn the permits it needs to go forward and none of that will happen.
Our project submittal will include a Mine Plan of Operations (MPO) issued to the Bureau of Land Management and a Scoping Environmental Assessment Worksheet (SEAW) issued to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. These documents represent more than a decade of engineering, scientific evaluation, environmental assessment and engagement work, including the evaluation of new technologies that maximize environmental protection. The work also represents more than $450 million in investment in northeastern Minnesota to date.
This is a testament to the importance of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Act put into place a process that has produced among the most stringent state and federal water and air protection measures in the nation. Not only is mining prohibited in the BWCA, but the wilderness is surrounded by two mining exclusion zones — all put into place to prevent mineral exploration where it was deemed inappropriate.
Outside of this vast prohibited zone, where the Twin Metals mineral leases are located, any company proposing to establish a mine must prove that it will be designed and operated in a way that protects the environment from contamination.
When we submit our MPO and SEAW, it will kick off a multiyear environmental review process by state and federal agencies and tribal governments that will include significant opportunities for the public to learn about the potential impacts and voice its concerns.
For the Twin Metals project, we will be subject to a state Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act and a separate federal EIS under the National Environmental Protection Act. In addition, our project must comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of the project on historic and cultural resources.
All of this regulatory scrutiny and public process is rooted in the congressional action that established the BWCA in the first place.
We take this process seriously, and we understand the importance of getting it right in this location. That’s why we will be proposing a 21st-century underground mine using advanced dry stack tailings technology that requires no tailings basins or dams, which significantly reduces our impact.
We have invested in the minerals of northeastern Minnesota because this region is home of one of the most important deposits of critical minerals in the world. We fully understand what makes the region unique. We have searched worldwide for the most advanced technologies for operating this type of mine and preserving the natural resources that surround the mine.
Twin Metals chose to make investments in Minnesota with a full understanding of the state’s commitment to protecting its resources through rigorous regulation. The Star Tribune Editorial Board is recommending that the process and standards be abandoned before they have been applied and conclusions have been reached.
We have a long road ahead, and we believe that ultimately these processes have and will continue to protect Minnesota’s environmental resources. We intend to make our mine a model for sustainable, modern underground mining — and yield to no one in our concern for the protection of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If we can’t demonstrate that in objective, credible ways, the project won’t be approved. Nor should it be.
Kelly Osborne is chief executive of Twin Metals Minnesota.