The Latest: Mining industry welcomes fed move on forest land

AP News
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Posted: Jan 26, 2018 5:29 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Latest on the U.S. Forest Service downgrading an environmental review of a proposal to withdraw some national forest land in Minnesota from minerals exploration (all times local):

4:20 p.m.

The mining industry is cheering a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to downgrade an environmental review of a proposal to withdraw certain national forest land in Minnesota from minerals exploration for up to 20 years.

Twin Metals wants to lease some of the land to mine for copper and nickel. The proposal would bring jobs, but worries environmentalists and some others who fear pollution in pristine waters of the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Forest Service said Friday it would do an environmental assessment rather than a more rigorous environmental impact statement.

Frank Ongaro, a spokesman for Mining Minnesota, calls it a step in the right direction. He says the time for the most detailed environmental review is when a specific project is before regulators.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat who represents the area, also said there would be a chance for rigorous review if and when a mining project comes forward.

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12:30 p.m.

The U.S. Forest Service says it's downgrading an environmental review of a proposal to withdraw certain national forest land in Minnesota from minerals exploration for up to 20 years.

The land includes the site where Twin Metals wants to mine for copper and nickel, near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Supporters of the project have touted the jobs it would bring, but opponents fear the mining could lead to sulfuric acid polluting the area's pristine waters.

The Forest Service says it will do an environmental assessment rather than a more rigorous environmental impact statement, because no significant environmental impacts have been identified during a long public scoping period.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters said the change means less opportunity for public input and rigorous scientific analysis.