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McCollum, others request extension of public comment period on renewal of mining leases adjacent to Boundary Waters

January 22, 2019
Press Release

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL, MN-04) and other Members of Congress released a letter sent January 18, 2019, to the Bureau of Land Management requesting an extension of the amount of time the public can comment on its plans to renew 10-year leases for Twin Metals, a company seeking to build a copper-nickel mine directly adjacent to the Boundary Waters.

The letter was sent jointly with Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chair Subcommittee Chair Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Members Rep. Mike Quigley and Rep. Chellie Pingree, and fellow Minnesota members Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Dean Phillips.

In the letter, the Representatives cited the Boundary Waters’ pristine waters, and the economic importance it has as the most-visited wilderness in America.

The letter also cites concerns. First, the abundance and interconnected nature of these waters is what makes them uniquely vulnerable to sulfide-ore copper mining pollution. Once this type of pollution enters the watershed, the damage can't be undone.

Further, today, January 22, 2019, is the last day for the public to submit comments on this proposal. During 28 days of BLM’s 30-day comment period, the Bureau has been subject to a federal partial government shutdown. Many of the staff that Americans would typically reach out to for assistance have been furloughed for most of this comment period. Much of the comment period also overlapped with the Christmas and New Year holidays, creating another potential burden for the public to comment.

The letter also requests that BLM allow the USFS to prepare a thorough Environmental Impact Statement, to consider the economic, environmental, public health, and other related issues raised by the renewal of these leases. This is critical, so that the American public can know without doubt that our water and our natural resources would not be harmed by the industrial activities resulting from these lease renewals.

Congresswoman McCollum issued the following statement:
“For the protection of our natural resources as well as for the sake of the local economy, both today and tomorrow, special care must be taken to ensure a comprehensive process is followed regarding this federal action. Much is potentially at stake with the renewal of these leases -- and state and local governments, tribal nations, advocacy organizations, and interested Americans deserve sufficient opportunity to weigh in.”


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