Twin Metals provides new mine information

Twin Metals Minnesota unveiled new information Thursday on its anticipated underground copper-nickel project nearly Ely, including locations of the mine’s concentrator, tailings storage facility and new office.

A Twin Metals spokesperson said the new information does not constitute a formal project proposal, which the company anticipates will be sent to state and federal agencies next year. A project proposal will trigger the Environment Impact Study process.

The new information provided by the company was posted to its website Thursday morning.

Twin Metals is planning to place the project’s concentrator and other surface facilities south of the mine location, on land it owns east of Birch Lake. About 100 acres will be developed and provide employees access to the mine site.

“This location for the concentrator and other surface facilities is different than previous, very preliminary, project layouts, which anticipated these facilities would be located in an area south of the Ely airport and west of Birch Lake,” the company said.

The surface tailings storage facility is planned for south of Babbitt and west of the Peter Mitchell Pit outside the Kawishiwi Watershed on land owned by the company. “This location was generally referenced in the 2017 project update, but is now more certain and can be referenced with greater detail.”

Twin Metals is also planning to open an office in Babbitt around the time construction begins, which follows the EIS and permitting processes. The company plans to keep its current office in Ely and use both locations as a gathering spot and shuttle employees to the mine site.

“This shuttle plan will both reduce traffic to the mine site and provide an economic boost in both Babbitt and Ely,” the company said.

Estimates provided by Twin Metals project the mine will create 650 direct jobs, 1,300 spin-off jobs in the region and 4 million construction hours, with a total of $40 billion in mineral value, at a total investment of $1.2 billion.

There’s still hurdles for the project to clear before it can reach the EIS and permitting process. A federal land withdrawal of more than 234,000 acres in the Superior National Forest, which includes the mine’s location, is pending federal review. The two-year study period expires at the end of the year if no action is taken.

The Department of the Interior earlier this month reinstated the company’s mineral rights leases, reversing a decision to deny the renewals that was made in the closing weeks of the Obama administration. The administration cited potential harm from acid mine drainage to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area when denying the leases, which date back to 1966.

Mining on site remains years away for Twin Metals, which is owned by Chilean mining company Antofagasta PLC. Beyond the timeline for submitting a formal mining plan, the environmental review process is expected to be one of the most extensive for a Minnesota-based project.

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