Federal judge dismisses Twin Metals copper-nickel mine lawsuit for failure to meet requirements

The proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota is facing obstacles after a federal judge threw out their order asking for permission to mine the area.

The Wednesday decision dismissed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in which Twin Metals aimed to garner control over an area of land that the administration banned mining on for 20 years.

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U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington, D.C., ruled that the lawsuit failed to meet the legal requirements to proceed, adding that the court doesn’t have the power to overrule a series of federal agency decisions against the company.

Twin Metals, a subsidiary of the Chilean mining company Antofagasta, said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by the decision and was “working to determine next steps.” Company spokeswoman Kathy Graul said in an email Thursday that she was not able to say what those next steps might be or whether they would include appeals to higher courts.

The Obama administration declined to renew Twin Metals’ mineral rights leases in its final weeks in office in 2016, citing the threat of acid mine drainage to the Boundary Waters, the country’s most-visited federally designated wilderness area. The Trump administration reinstated those leases in 2019 as part of its push to lessen U.S. dependence on imported metals.

But the Biden administration took up where the Obama administration left off, canceling the leases last year and imposing a 20-year moratorium on mining in an area of the Superior National Forest upstream from the wilderness that includes the Twin Metals underground mine site near Ely, a community of about 3,000 people. The state of Minnesota then ended its environmental review of the project. Twin Metals sued the federal government last summer to try to undo its decisions.

Chris Knopf, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said in a statement, “Twin Metals was making a Hail Mary pass in its hope to get around the law and facts. The court saw through this and in its decision to toss out the case, affirmed science, affirmed the law, and protected some of the cleanest water in the country.”

Congressman Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) issued the following statement Thursday:

“This disappointing news is a huge blow to Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District – where Twin Metals is poised to unleash the economic engine and put countless Minnesotans to work. This decision is just more proof that we need substantive permitting reform in this country. We simply cannot afford to have good mining projects caught up in endless litigation and extended delays. As we do nothing, adversarial nations like China are rapidly producing the critical minerals necessary for every aspect of our daily lives. Rather than continuing to rely on Communist China, I personally would rather see Minnesota’s miners produce these resources here at home under the strongest environmental and labor standards in the world.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.