MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The federal Bureau of Land Management has reinstated mineral rights leases for a proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Land and Mineral Management Joe Balash announced the renewal Wednesday.

Balash says mining on public lands balances conservation policies with the “need to produce minerals that add value to the lives of all Americans.”

The leases cover land 9 miles (14 kilometers) southeast of Ely that encompasses vast reserves of copper, nickel and precious metals. The land is part of the Superior National Forest.

Environmental groups are fighting the project, fearing mining would spoil the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness.

Twin Metals Minnesota CEO Kelly Osborne calls the lease renewal “a critical step” for the company to present its proposal for an underground mine.

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