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2 more lawsuits challenge proposed mine near wilderness area

June 25, 2018

FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2011, file photo, a prospecting drill rig bores into the bedrock near Ely, Minn., in search of copper, nickel and precious metals that Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, hopes to mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. Environmental groups filed two more lawsuits Monday, June 25, 2018, challenging the Interior Department's decision to reinstate the federal mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. The two lawsuits follow a similar case filed Friday by Minnesota businesses that depend on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Environmental groups filed two more lawsuits Monday challenging the Interior Department’s decision to reinstate the federal mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

One of the lawsuits was filed by three national groups: The Wilderness Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Izaak Walton League of America. The other was filed by the Minneapolis-based Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. They follow a similar lawsuit filed Thursday by nine businesses that rely on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, plus Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. All three were filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management reinstated the leases last month, reversing a decision against renewing them by the Obama administration, which cited the potential harm to the Boundary Waters from acid mine drainage.

Twin Metals, which is owned by the Chilean mining company Antofagasta, wants to build an underground mine and ore processing facility near Ely on Birch Lake, which flows into the popular wilderness area.

The company has said the mine would create 650 direct jobs as well as 1,300 spinoff jobs without harming the wilderness, and that it believes there’s no legal basis for blocking reinstatement of its leases.

The project is not as advanced as the separate PolyMet mine, which would become Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine if it gets final approval of its permits.

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This story has been corrected to show that the first lawsuit was filed Thursday, not Friday.

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