News release: Public comment period opens today on DNR review of siting rule for nonferrous mines

November 9, 2021

Today, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will begin accepting public comments regarding parts of the nonferrous mine siting rule. Public comments will be accepted from Nov. 9, through Dec. 8.

The DNR is seeking public comment on the following question: 

With express consideration of how Minn. R. 6132.2000, subp. 2A and subp. 3A fit within the broader context of all applicable environmental protection in state and federal law regulating nonferrous mining, are the exclusion of mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) set forth in Minn. R. 6132.2000 subp. 2A, and the prohibition of surface disturbance in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Mineral Management Corridor as set forth in Minn. R. 6132.2000, subp. 3A adequate to protect the BWCAW from pollution, impairment, or destruction or should further restrictions on mining be extended to all or part of the Rainy River- Headwaters defined as HUC 09030001?

The DNR has established a dedicated webpage for DNR’s review of the siting rule. This webpage contains information about the review process and a link to submit public comments online. Comments may also be submitted by U.S. Postal Service  to:

MN Department of Natural Resources
ATTN: Nonferrous Mine Siting Rule
500 Lafayette Road N, Box 45
St. Paul, MN 55155-4045

All comments, both online and via Postal Service, must be submitted no later than Dec. 8. 

Background on Procedural Order
On Oct. 4, the DNR filed a Procedural Order in Ramsey County District Court outlining the process the department will use to review Minnesota’s siting rule for nonferrous mines. The Procedural Order describes how the DNR will seek public comment and make a decision on whether the state’s existing nonferrous mine siting rule (Minnesota Rule 6132.2000 Subparts 2A and 3A) is adequate to protect the BWCAW from pollution, impairment or destruction from potential mining within the Rainy River Headwaters watershed.

As described in the Procedural Order, the DNR is seeking substantive public comments to assist the department in its decision making.  This comment period is associated with a court approved process, and the comment period is limited to 30 days. To assist commenters, the DNR announced the then-upcoming comment period on Oct. 4, effectively giving commenters more than 60 days to prepare their comments.

It is important that commenters provide substantive information on why the siting rule should or should not be changed. Comments that only focus on support for or opposition to mining, without providing further information for the DNR to consider, will not assist the DNR in its decision making about the adequacy of the existing nonferrous mine siting rule.

Why DNR is Undertaking this Mining Rule Review
On June 24, 2020, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NEMW), sued the DNR under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act. NEMW claims in its lawsuit that Minnesota’s longstanding nonferrous mine siting rule is inadequate to protect the BWCAW. Specifically, NEMW asserts that Minnesota Rule 6132.2000 (Subparts 2A and 3A) should prohibit nonferrous metallic mineral mining (e.g., copper-nickel mining) in the entirety of the Rainy River Headwaters watershed. Currently, the rule prohibits mining in the BWCAW and prohibits mining that disturbs the surface in a specified area around the BWCAW.

At the DNR’s request, the Court issued a Sept. 13, 2021 order sending the case back to the DNR for further proceedings. This approach allows the DNR, as the state’s primary regulatory authority for mining, to assess the adequacy of the siting rule through a robust administrative process that ensures agency experts have an opportunity to carefully consider all relevant evidence.