MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan is pushing for more mining exploration near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

This comes after Twin Metals Minnesota, a Chilean based mining company, was denied the renewal of two leases that would have allowed the mineral exploration to continue near the BWCA for a proposed sulfide ore copper mine.

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Nolan recently met with a White House official on this issue.  Samantha Bisogno, Press Secretary for the Congressman released this statement.

“Congressman Nolan met with Secretary Zinke on April 26th and discussed his support for renewing the leases in a process-oriented way, as had happened during the two previous non-controversial renewals (which were given Categorical Exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act). It should be noted that Nolan hasn’t voiced his support for a Twin Metals project, as a project has not yet been proposed. At this point, what Nolan continues to support is allowing mineral exploration to proceed so we can assess what resources are present in the area. With that said, if a formal mine plan of operations were to ever be proposed, he would carefully evaluate it, as would the appropriate regulators and the wider public through the comprehensive environmental review process already in place.”

In the ’70s, Nolan helped champion the legislation establishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area as a wilderness area, which prevents any commercial development or mining in that space.

However, he also represents much of northern Minnesota, an area where many families depend on the mining industry.  Nolan in the past has said he supports the job creation as long as environmental protections are in place.

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Doug Niemela, national manager of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, worries about the impact a mine would have on the area, even though it falls outside the boundaries of the BWCA.

“When you look at entire area what I do within quarter mile of boundary waters wilderness line is going to affect the water and quality of life inside that wilderness area,” Niemela said.

While Congressman Nolan says the leases are merely exploration, Niemela argues there’s little to stop the process from that point on.

“The problem with that is it actually gives them the right to mine,” Niemela said. “It begins a process in which you start a review on a mine plan and proposal and once that plan and proposal is put forward it’s very hard and there’s almost no way to say no to that mine.”

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A federal environmental review is underway to determine if sulfide-ore copper mining should be banned in the Boundary Waters watershed for up to 20 years.