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Minn. forests reopened to mining

Mineral exploration in the Rainy River watershed in Minnesota's Superior National Forest, also known as the Iron Range, will soon be allowed after the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, cancelled a review that would have led to a 20-year ban on mining and prospecting in the area.

The USDA said interested companies may now seek to lease minerals in the watershed, where exploration was proposed to be banned by the Obama administration to protect about 234,000 acres of the watershed, citing a potential threat from acid mine drainage to the nearby Boundary Waters, the country’s most-visited wilderness area.

Antofagasta PLC unit Twin Metals Minnesota LLC is expected to benefit from the latest move, as the company recently got the green light for the reinstatement of two expired mineral leases for its Twin Metals copper-nickel project.

"It's our duty as responsible stewards of our environment to maintain and protect our natural resources. At the same time, we must put our national forests to work for the taxpayers to support local economies and create jobs," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a Sept. 6 release.

According to the agency, the decision was made after a 15-month review by the Forest Service, which included a mineral resources report, a biological, economic and cultural impact assessment, and solicited public feedback. The review did not reveal new scientific information.