Jan 26, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Interior Department cancels 2 Minnesota mining leases renewed under Trump

Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced the cancelation of two mine leases near Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that had been renewed under former President Trump.

Why it matters: The announcement comes on the heels of a legal opinion from the Interior Department’s Office of Solicitor, which ruled that the leases, held by Twin Metals Minnesota, were "improperly renewed" by the Trump administration.

  • The Interior Department had blocked a mining company's renewal request a month before former President Obama left office. The Trump administration reversed the decision two years later, according to the Washington Post.
  • The legal opinion from the department’s Office of Solicitor found "significant legal deficiencies" surrounding the renewal. It also said the previous administration had conducted an "inadequate" environmental analysis.

What they're saying: "The Department of the Interior takes seriously our obligations to steward public lands and waters on behalf of all Americans," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

  • "We must be consistent in how we apply lease terms to ensure that no lessee receives special treatment," she added.
  • "After a careful legal review, we found the leases were improperly renewed in violation of applicable statutes and regulations, and we are taking action to cancel them.”

The other side: Twin Metals Minnesota called the decision "disappointing," adding that it "is a political action intended to stop the Twin Metals project without conducting the environmental review prescribed in law."

  • "Our commitment to the communities of northeast Minnesota and to advancing a sustainable mining project has not waivered," the company added.

What to watch: Last October, the Biden administration applied for a "mineral withdrawal," which would begin an environmental analysis that could lead to a 20-year ban on mining in "key portions of the national forest lands."

Go deeper