Hundreds of mining supporters attended a Tuesday rally in Virginia to condemn federal intervention that might prevent copper-nickel exploration near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).
The rally was followed by a half-mile march to a U.S. Forest Service hearing that addressed a potential ban on mineral lease renewals near the BWCA. At the highly animated session, speakers said the proposed regulatory action was politically inspired during the final days of the Obama administration. Later at the public hearing, Ely Mayor Chuck Novak lamented, “My own congressman could not even get an appointment with the administration officials” who proposed the moratorium.
Approximately 234,000 acres would temporarily be placed off limits to mineral exploration if a potential moratorium advances. It would affect public land where Twin Metals Minnesota and its predecessor companies have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on exploration efforts. The firms previously held mineral leases in the area which, in the past, were routinely renewed.
The rally came a week after Iron Range mining supporters boycotted a similar hearing in St. Paul, complaining it was unusual to gather input in a part of the state far from where a proposal is at issue.