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Forest Service denies DNR request for copper-nickel study results

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 4/16/20

 

REGIONAL— Research into the environmental and economic effects of a potential copper-nickel mine near Ely will remain under wraps, despite a request from the Minnesota Department of …

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Forest Service denies DNR request for copper-nickel study results

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REGIONAL— Research into the environmental and economic effects of a potential copper-nickel mine near Ely will remain under wraps, despite a request from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to obtain the data.

Last month, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen requested to review the information gathered by the Forest Service as part of what was supposed to be a two-year study of the effects of a mineral withdrawal affecting 234,000 acres of the Superior National Forest. In 2018, the Trump administration abruptly canceled the study a few months short of its completion and has since refused requests from Congress, environmental groups, and now the state of Minnesota, to release the partial results.

The DNR had requested to review the information gathered by the Forest Service as part of its own environmental review of a controversial mine proposal issued by Twin Metals, a proposed copper-nickel mine that would be located a few miles upstream of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, near Ely.

Yet, in an April 13 letter, Robert Lueckel, acting regional forester for the Eastern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, declines to release the requested information, citing the preliminary nature of the data. “Not only are the incomplete data and documents deliberative pre-decisional materials, but also reliance on potentially irrelevant and unreviewed data and analyses will only hinder our collective efforts to develop a sound environmental analysis for the current proposal,” wrote Lueckel.

It’s unclear how the Trump administration decision will impact the state’s own review of the Twin Metals proposal. “The DNR has not yet determined how we will respond to the USFS letter nor any implications their response may have to our review of the Twin Metals proposal,” said DNR Assistant Commissioner Jess Richards.

Environmental critics were more outspoken. “It’s sad that the U.S. Forest Service is suppressing scientific findings and making decisions based on special interests and political pressure,” said Chris Knopf, executive director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters. “Now, more than ever, we need facts and science to be out in the open, not hidden.”

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