Mining records: DNR document review #2

Public Record Media has posted a second set of documents obtained through a public data request made to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  The documents largely center on metallic mineral leases sought by DMC (USA) LLC, a subsidiary of Duluth Metals Limited. Other documents detail activities undertaken by Twin Metals Minnesota, which is a joint venture of Duluth Metals and Antofangasta, PLC.

Nonferrous projects in Minnesota

Twin Metals is conducting exploratory work in anticipation of a major nonferrous mining project, proposed to be sited just south of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), the details of which are still in development.  Twin Metals currently holds state leases to conduct exploratory mining operations on multiple acres of public lands.   The leases were assumed from Duluth Metals in 2010.

More recently, 31 separate metallic mineral leases were approved by the Minnesota Executive Council, in October of 2013.

Another nonferrous project – PolyMet’s NorthMet mine – has been undergoing state and federal environmental review for the past several years.  Nonferrous mining has yet to be conducted in Minnesota, and differs from traditional taconite mining in certain ways, including its use of a flotation process that utilizes a chemical separator to capture trace minerals found in mined ore, as opposed to the magnetic separation techniques used in taconite processing.

Duluth Metals, Twin Metals documents

DNR’s document release includes the following records:

• A June 13, 2013  press release from Duluth Metals describes the potential size of its “copper-nickel-palladium-platinum-gold reserve.”  The release states that the project contains “one of the largest” precious metal deposits of its type in the world.  The release further notes that while the company “is optimistic about the potential of many of its projects … the Company’s exploration and development activities may also be affected by a number of risks, including environmental, metallurgical, financing, permitting, approval, legislative, and other government risks.”

• A letter of May 22, 2013 from DNR to Twin Metals includes DNR’s response to the company’s proposal to drill 31 well sites to explore hydrogeologic conditions.  The correspondence includes notes on avoiding impacts to endangered plants, minimizing the spread of invasive species, and coordinating with the Encampment Minerals mining company to ensure that there are no disruptions to their nearby activities.

• Related documents include a table of well locations for a Twin Metals project to explore hydrogeologic conditions, as well as a map of the same.

• Internal DNR correspondence relates questions posed by Betsy Daub of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to DNR staff about whether an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) would be required for six proposed Twin Metals drilling sites.  The e-mail states that no EAW would be required for the six sites.  In the message, DNR declines to take a position on whether a larger number of drilling sites would trigger an EAW, but also notes that the matter would be discussed with DNR environmental staff.

• A DNR e-mail notes that federal approval is needed for some proposed Twin Metals activities on public lands.

• An e-mail of October 31, 2013 contains a letter from the US Forest Service (USFS) stating that the USFS will require an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a Twin Metals project including 13 hyrdogeologic well pads on federal land.

• A document provides notice of DNR’s approval of certain of Twin Metals activities to explore hydrogeologic conditions.

• A cover sheet to lease #144-012-0817, allowing Twin Metals to drill certain observation wells.  Lease and attachments included. August 30, 2013.

Metallic mineral leases

The document collection also contains records relating to north-woods mining operations more broadly:

• An internal DNR e-mail of September 16, 2013 includes information on certain lands offered for metallic mineral leases.

• DNR correspondence details the mineral ownership of six lakes “in, around, and near” the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  October 8, 2012.  The e-mail notes that all six lakes are owned by the state of Minnesota, and (with the exception of Heart Lake), and have been offered for nonferrous metallic mineral leasing in the past.

Full DNR document collection

View PRM’s full document collection here.  New documents from DNR’s record release will be added in the coming days and weeks.

NOTE – This post has been modified to further detail the corporate relationship between the listed companies, and to clarify certain described activities.  June 26, 27, July 27 2014.