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Protecting the Public Lands


Good move here on the part of the Biden administration and let’s hope there’s a way to move this toward permanence so that the next Republican administration can’t just undo these protections.

The Biden administration said Wednesday that it had canceled two mining leases that would have allowed a copper mine to be built near an area of pristine wilderness in Minnesota.

The Interior Department said it had determined that the leases, held by Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of the Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta, were improperly reinstated by the Trump administration in 2019.

President Obama had previously moved to block the mining project, declining to renew the leases. But beginning in the early weeks of the Trump presidency, the administration worked at high levels to remove roadblocks to the mine, The New York Times reported in 2019.

That move followed discussions between Antofagasta executives and senior administration officials. The billionaire Andrónico Luksic, whose family controls Antofagasta, also rented a $5.5 million house in Washington to Ivanka Trump, the daughter of former president Donald J. Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, early in the Trump administration when the couple was first moving to Washington, D.C.

I like the extra corruption aspect of this.

The Boundary Waters, a vast landscape of protected lakes and forests along the border with Canada, provide habitat for thousands of species, including the gray wolf and Canada lynx. But mining companies have long expressed interest in the area, because beneath the surface lies an estimated four billion tons of copper and nickel ore. It is thought to be one of the world’s largest undeveloped mineral deposits.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said her department “takes seriously our obligations to steward public lands and waters on behalf of all Americans.” She added, “We must be consistent in how we apply lease terms to ensure that no lessee receives special treatment.”

She said a new legal opinion from the Interior Department’s Office of the Solicitor had found “significant legal deficiencies” in the circumstances surrounding the 2019 renewal, including a violation of departmental regulations and an inadequate environmental analysis.

The proposed mine had sparked a fierce backlash from local environmentalists, who said that harmful metals and other contamination could leach from the site. “Today is a major win for Boundary Waters protection,” said Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. The leases, she added, “should never have been reinstated in the first place.”

One of the many, many things that binds the Republican Party together and that Trump was no different on than McCain or Romney or Bush or anyone else is the love of tearing up the earth for profit. So the only way to prevent this going forward is probably expanding the wilderness area or passing a new law specifically to protect this area. Still, one reason to be aggressive about even temporary measures is that it convinces companies that it’s not worth the effort to mine these places since the leases aren’t secure. Of course, this is also one of the reasons that Republicans have embraced fascism.

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