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'Hell-bent on advancing toxic mining'? Trump administration cancels Boundary Waters study

Last year, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said a scientifically stringent environmental study could conclude that sulfide mining is too hazardous for the Boundary Waters. Now, that study won't see the light of day.

Last year, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said a scientifically stringent environmental study could conclude that sulfide mining is too hazardous for the Boundary Waters. Now, that study won't see the light of day.

In the final days of the Obama administration, the U.S. Forest Service was ordered to launch a scientific environmental analysis to determine whether sulfide ore mining would drastically alter the Boundary Waters.

At the same time, Obama's Agriculture and Interior Departments chose not to renew mining leases in the Superior National Forest adjacent to the Boundary Waters, and the Forest Service proposed withdrawing 234,000 acres of the national park land from mining for 20 years.

Copper-nickel mines planned for the area by PolyMet and Twin Metals suddenly faced a formidable road to approval. Mining proponents hoped that the new Trump administration would revive the projects.

Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who sits on the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, sought a promise from Trump's Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that that nothing would be done to derail the sulfide mining environmental study. During a hearing in May 2017, Perdue assured her that he believed the study was essential to making an informed decision.

"None of us, I’m not smart enough to know to do without the facts base and the sound science and we are absolutely allowing that to proceed," he said.

Less than a year later, it turns out the study will be cancelled after all, to be replaced by an "abbreviated" environmental assessment, according to the Washington Post, which obtained a draft news release prepared by the Forest Service. 

An irate McCollum condemned the discovery on Friday, saying, "The Trump administration's decision to abandon a comprehensive and public Environment Impact Statement appears to demonstrate that an Interior Department hell-bent on advancing toxic mining is calling the shots about the future of this untouched wilderness."