Reprinted with permission from DCReport.org
Trumpâs Interior Department isÂ reinstating two 1966 leases,Â written before todayâs federal environmental laws, that could allow a Chilean mining company to build a giant copper-and-nickel mine adjacent to theÂ Boundary Waters wilderness areaÂ in northern Minnesota.
The mining company is controlled byÂ AndrÃ³nico Luksic, whose family controls a mining, banking and industrial empire that Forbes estimates is valued at $13.1 billion. Luksic also dabbles in Washington, D.C., residential real estate and has a business relationshipÂ with the Trump family.Â He is First Son-in-Law Jared Kushnerâs and First Daughter Ivanka Trumpâs landlord.
The Boundary Waters is a 1.1 million-acre wilderness beloved by canoeists and hikers in the Superior National Forest along Minnesotaâs border with Canada. Mining in the area could result in acid damage that can last for centuries.
âThereâs a reason that the Boundary Waters isÂ one of the most visited wilderness areas in America:Â Itâs an incredible place,â Sally Jewell, then the Interior Department secretary, said in 2016.
Twin Metals Minnesota,Â a subsidiary ofÂ Antofagasta PLC,Â suedÂ in federal court over the leases for 4,800 acres on the southwest border of the Boundary Waters even before the Obama administration decided in December 2016Â against renewing them.
ACTION BOX/What You Can Do About It
Call the White House at 202-456-1111 to tell Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump not to let their landlord destroyÂ Boundary Waters
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters can be reached at 218-365-7808 or email@example.com
In December 2016, just after Trumpâs election,Â Luksic paid $5.5 million,Â pocket change for a billionaire, for a six-bedroom home in Washingtonâs tony Kalorama neighborhood. The house was never advertised for rent, but just a little more than a month after closing on the property, he leased it to Kushner and Trump forÂ $15,000 a month.Â Â The rent is not out of line for properties in the neighborhoods, but The Wall Street Journal said it representsÂ a low 2.5% annual return on the purchase price.
Just two weeks ago,Â Daniel Jorjani,Â a former adviser to various Koch brothers organizations and now the principal deputy solicitor of the Interior Department, wrote a 19-page legal menu arguing that the Obama Interior Department used the wrong legal logic when it opted not to renew the leases.
Under Obama, the Forest Service launched aÂ reviewÂ lasting up to two years of risk to the Boundary Waters from copper and nickel mining. The federal government was studying whether toÂ ban all mining activities in 234,000acres next to the Boundary Waters for the next two decades.
Jorjani traced the history of the land, beginning with an interest in the land in 1952 fromÂ International Nickel Company Inc.,Â and various meetings, phone calls, memos and other documents before concluding that the Obama administration erred and âimproperly interpreted the leases.â
AÂ studyÂ published in theÂ Journal of HydrologyÂ in 2016 found that polluted water from mining near the Boundary Waters could potentially affectÂ up to 2.3 million acresÂ of American and Canadian public lands.
More than 74,000Â people urged the Forest Service in 2016 not to renew the leases.Â Becky Rom,Â the head of theÂ Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters,Â keeps a copy of the federalÂ Wilderness ActÂ of 1964, signed by former President Lyndon Johnson which helped create federally designated wilderness areas.