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Mining ban near BWCA once again on the table

Federal officials gathered public feedback in a virtual meeting Wednesday, more than five years after a 20-year mining ban on land near the BWCA was proposed.

ELY, Minn. — Editor's note: The video above first aired on Oct. 20, 2021.

The ongoing tug-of war over whether mining should be allowed near the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) has been rekindled with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. 

Federal officials once again gathered feedback from the public in a virtual meeting Wednesday, that comes more than five years after a 20-year mining ban was first proposed for land south of the Boundary Waters in northeastern Minnesota. 

Supporters of the ban insist the watershed of the Boundary Waters is no place to mine copper, nickel and other precious metals because of environmental risks. But, those opposing the ban say the mineral resources are critical for a transition to a green economy, and the jobs that will come along with it.

Mining remains a lucrative prospect in the mineral-rich state of Minnesota. Just this week Talon Metals announced a $1.5 billion deal with electric automaker Tesla, to provide nickel concentrate from a mine near Tamarack some 50 miles west of Duluth. That nickel will be used to manufacture batteries for Tesla vehicles. 

And a legal battle wages on over the proposed underground Twin Metals copper-nickel mine that would be constructed near Ely, just outside the BWCA. Permits were granted for the construction and operation of the mines, but legal challenges from opponents and a move by the Biden administration to impose a 20-year moratorium on mining on national forest land near the canoe wilderness area have things at a standstill. 

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