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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Photo by briandjan607 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Trump administration action that could spoil a Minnesota wilderness with acidic damage for centuries would benefit the landlord of the president's children.

Former President Jimmy Carter signed a law more than four decades ago to prohibit mining in the Boundary Waters, a pristine wilderness. With more than 1,000 lakes, it stretches almost 200 miles along the U.S.-Canada border in Minnesota.

Now the Trump administration is preparing to sully this land forever—to the benefit of the billionaire Chilean landlord of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Trump's Bureau of Land Management plans to study the environmental impact of mining for copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals near Ely, Minn. The site is just three miles away from the Boundary Waters, which is within the 3 million-acre Superior National Forest. State regulators said the plans of Twin Metals, the mining company, are incomplete and have published almost 800 comments asking for more information.

Under former President Barack Obama, the Forest Service said a copper-nickel sulfide mine on land leased by Twin Metals carried an "unacceptable" risk that the mine might "cause serious and irreplaceable harm" to the Boundary Waters. The land bureau decided against renewing two leases held by Twin Metals.

After Trump was elected, a company controlled by Andrónico Luksic, the Chilean mogul behind Twin Metals, bought a six-bedroom house for $5.5 million in the Kalorama neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where billionaire Jeff Bezos and Obama own homes. Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner moved in, paying $15,000 a month.

Luksic's spokesman has said the Kushners' choice of the property was coincidental, but soon after Trump's inauguration the land bureau started to look at reversing the Obama decision on the leases.

The red circle shows the approximate area of the proposed mine.

"The WH has expressed interest in the Twin Metals matter and Doug Domenich [sic.] (then an adviser to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke) wants to talk to the WH today," attorney Karen Hawbecker wrote in June 2017. The leases were renewed for 10 years in May 2019 with a right to perpetual renewal.

Twin Metals claims the design of the mine would prevent acid mine drainage in which sulfuric acid formed by mining dissolves heavy metals in rocks. The pollution can make streams as acidic as battery acid, and the damage can last hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years. Acid mine drainage destroyed Tar Creek in Oklahoma, contributing to one of the worst Superfund sites in our nation's history.

The Wilderness Society, Minnesota businesses and other environmental organizations sued Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in federal court to try to stop the mine, saying that damage caused by acid mine drainage might not ever be remediated.

The lawsuit claims that renewing the leases without doing an environmental impact statement was a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

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