U.S. DISTRICT COURT UPHOLDS TWIN METALS MINNESOTA’S MINERAL LEASE REINSTATEMENT
ST. PAUL, Minn., March 17, 2020 – Twin Metals Minnesota (TMM) is pleased with the district court’s decision today rejecting a challenge to the Interior Department’s reinstatement of Twin Metals’ two hardrock mineral leases in northeastern Minnesota. The court agreed with Twin Metals both that Interior has authority to reinstate the leases and that the leases provided Twin Metals a non-discretionary right to a third renewal. Those leases were officially renewed in May of 2019. This decision once again validates our position that these mineral leases that have been held by Twin Metals Minnesota and its predecessor companies for more than 50 years and should have been renewed in 2016.
The ruling came in an appeal by environmental groups seeking to overturn the Trump Administration Interior Department’s decision in 2017 to reinstate two leases to mine on 5,000 acres of Superior National Forest land in northeastern Minnesota. That decision itself had reversed an agency decision to cancel the leases by the Obama Administration in 2016.
“We’re very gratified that this decision – a summary judgment – validates our contention that the decision to cancel leases held in good standing for more than 50 years was arbitrary and wrong,” said Kelly Osborne, Chief Executive Officer of Twin Metals. “Companies must be able to trust the regulatory process in order to risk the enormous capital required to extract metals such as copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals that are vital to creation of the green economy our world so desperately needs.”
The two leases were issued in 1966 to a Twin Metals predecessor company and renewed twice, in 1989 and again in 2004. When Twin Metals applied for a third renewal in 2012, the Interior Department ultimately said no in 2016, based on objections from the U.S. Forest Service. In May of 2017, the Interior Department’s top legal official, Daniel Jorjani, ruled that the earlier lease cancellation was erroneous on grounds that Forest Service approval was not a condition of the lease renewal and that the leases’ renewal was required under the terms they were granted. The Interior Department reinstated the leases, which were formally renewed in May of 2019.
Plaintiffs called the Interior Department decision, the Jorjani Opinion, “arbitrary and capricious,” but Judge McFadden disagreed in a 31-page decision.
As to the plaintiffs’ argument that the Interior Department lacked the authority to reinstate the leases, the district court agreed with Twin Metals and the government that the department has “inherent authority to timely reconsider its prior decisions and reasonably did so here.”
The court then turned to another key issue: whether under the terms of the 1966 lease and subsequent renewals Twin Metals lost its “non-discretionary,” or inherent, right to a third renewal because production hadn’t started in the first 20 years of the lease. Jorjani said the lease renewal terms did not support that argument, while the plaintiffs, grouped under the case title as Voyager Outward Bound School, et al vs. United States and Twin Metals, argued that they did. Again, Judge McFadden agreed with Twin Metals and the government, concluding that the leases gave Twin Metals the right to the third renewal.
In summary, the district judge wrote, “Interior timely corrected an error that would have deprived Twin Metals of its right to valuable leases,” he wrote. “Its analysis explaining the need to correct this error was thorough, thoughtful and reasonable – a far cry from ‘arbitrary and capricious.’”
The Jorjani Opinion’s interpretation of the mining leases was, in fact, reasonable,” the judge wrote. “And its legal conclusions based on that reasonable interpretation were well-founded.”
In December of 2019, TMM submitted its mine proposal to state and federal agencies, launching an extensive and rigorous environmental and scientific review, a process which requires significant input from regulatory agencies, tribal governments and the public.
For more than a decade, TMM has been conducting the largest hydrogeological study in northeastern Minnesota’s history. With more than $450 million already invested in the project, TMM is committed to developing these resources in an environmentally safe and sustainable manner. TMM will provide hundreds of jobs for generations of Minnesotans and generate billions of dollars of economic growth in the region.
Manager, Public Relations
Twin Metals Minnesota
About Twin Metals Minnesota: Twin Metals Minnesota is a Minnesota company focused on designing, constructing and operating an underground copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mining project in northeast Minnesota. The TMM Project brings the promise of significant long-term jobs and environmentally responsible economic development for generations in Minnesota. Twin Metals is a subsidiary of Antofagasta plc, one of the top ten copper producers in the world. For more information, visit www.twin-metals.com.