Twin Metals Files Lawsuit to Protect Mineral Rights in Northern Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 12, 2016 – Twin Metals Minnesota today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota to affirm and protect its long-standing federal mineral rights in the Iron Range region of Northeast Minnesota. Twin Metals is in the early stages of developing a proposal for a modern, environmentally responsible, underground copper-nickel mining project in the region which would provide hundreds of jobs for generations of Minnesotans.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate a recent opinion by Department of the Interior (DOI) Solicitor Hilary Tompkins instructing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that it has the discretion to deny renewal of Twin Metals’ federal mineral leases. The lawsuit challenges the Solicitor’s opinion as being inconsistent with federal law, the terms of Twin Metals’ leases, and the federal government’s established precedent in supporting and renewing the leases over five decades.
“The Solicitor’s opinion has cast a cloud of uncertainty over Twin Metals’ federal mineral rights creating significant challenges for the company to engage in long-term planning, investment, development, or operational decisions,” said Ian Duckworth, Chief Operating Officer of Twin Metals. “Affirming the validity of Twin Metals’ federal mineral leases would eliminate that uncertainty and facilitate responsible project development activities moving forward.”
The leases in question were issued by the federal government in 1966 with a right of unlimited, successive 10-year renewals. Consistent with these rights the leases were renewed by BLM without controversy in 1989 and again in 2004. Twin Metals filed the pending lease renewal application in mid-2013. Twin Metals has invested more than $400 million to date in acquisition, exploration, technical, environmental, and other project development activities, all while relying on the federal government’s repeated affirmation of the validity of the mineral leases.
The recent abrupt reversal in the federal government’s position on the right to renewal of the leases, as stated in the Solicitor’s opinion, appears to be motivated by political pressure and unsupported allegations about potential impacts of future mining development in the region. Such concerns are inappropriate at this stage. Twin Metals has not yet submitted a proposed mining project on these leases, and any future mining proposal will be subject to thorough environmental review by multiple federal and state regulatory agencies. This lawsuit is not about approving a mining project; it is about confirming Twin Metals’ property rights in these minerals.
If not overturned, the Solicitor’s opinion will strip Twin Metals of its long-standing federal mineral rights. Furthermore, by preventing mineral development on these leases, the government would deprive Minnesota of the potential for hundreds of future jobs and billions of dollars in environmentally-responsible economic development, and hinder access to one of the world’s largest sources of copper, nickel and platinum—resources of strategic importance to the U.S. economy and national defense.
About Twin Metals Minnesota: Twin Metals Minnesota is a Minnesota company focused on developing and operating an underground copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold and silver mining project (TMM Project) in the Iron Range region of Northeast Minnesota. Twin Metals is owned by Antofagasta plc, one of the top ten copper producers in the world. The TMM Project is in the early stages of development and offers Minnesota an extraordinary opportunity for long-term, environmentally-sound economic growth and job creation.
Additional details are available in this fact sheet.