The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) laid out its plans on Monday to start a court-ordered review of its mining rules.
The agency agreed to determine whether those rules adequately protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from copper-nickel mining pollution in response to a lawsuit over the proposed Twin Metals mine near Ely. The agency will accept public comments from Nov. 9 to Dec. 8.
Opponents of the mine, led by the group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, sued the DNR last year, arguing the agency should not allow nonferrous mining within the watershed that flows into the Boundary Waters. The DNR's current rule only prohibits mining within the Boundary Waters itself and within a smaller area surrounding it.
At the DNR's request, the court allowed the agency to go through the review process to decide if its current rule does enough to protect the wilderness "from pollution, impairment, or destruction."
The review will take nearly a year. The DNR said it will make its determination by Sept. 13, 2022.
The mining opponents who sued over Twin Metals will have a chance to appeal the DNR's decision through a contested-case hearing. The DNR's final decision would then need court approval.