The US Home Office on Wednesday cancelled two mineral leases for Antofagasta Plc's proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in Minnesota, effectively stifling the project and handing a major victory to environmentalists.
The decision shows that despite the increased demand for minerals used to make electric cars in efforts to combat climate change, President Joe Biden's government is increasingly willing to give priority to domestic protection efforts.
In 2016, the then President Barack Obama's administration first cancelled the lease for a proposed mine in northern Minnesota. But the administration of President Donald Trump overturned the decision.
Biden officials said Wednesday that Trump was wrong to return the lease.
Us Interior Secretary Deb Harland said: "We have found that the leases have been improperly renewed in violation of applicable laws and regulations, and we are taking action to abolish them," she added. Her department has a responsibility "to ensure that no lessee is given special treatment. "although she did not elaborate on the details.
Twin Metals, controlled by Chile's Antofagasta, said it believed the decision was based on politics rather than science.
"We will challenge this attempt to stop our projects and defend our effective existing mining rights. We expect to gain the upper hand. " Twin Metals spokesman Kathy Graul said.
The move complements a plan announced by the White House last fall to impose a 20-year ban on mining in Minnesota's border waters, where Antofagasta hopes to build an underground mine to provide copper for electric vehicles, which use twice as much copper as internal combustion engines.
The lease was first granted in 1966 and has been passed on between successor companies. No mining has been carried out at the site.
Environmentalists have long worried that mining will pollute the wilderness of the canoe area, a 1m-acre (405000-hectare) reserve on the U.S.-Canada border.
"it is exhilarating to let the government make decisions with integrity. Twin Metals's lease should not have been renewed in the first place, and this announcement should stop the threat from the Twin Metals mine, "said Becky Rom of the Minnesota Conservation Organization Save the Border Waters campaign.
According to reports last year, Biden's goal is to find metal supplies abroad and focus on processing battery components at home. The strategy is an action taken by Biden to consolidate support for environmentalists and runs counter to his private commitment to miners to allow more domestic mining during his 2020 presidential campaign.
The United States Forestry Service, which is affiliated with the Department of Agriculture, controls the land's surface land. The United States Land Administration, which is part of the Department of the Interior, controls underground copper mines and must approve plans to mine minerals.
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