VIRGINIA, MN – On February 21, 2017, a lawsuit was filed against Governor Mark Dayton and the State of Minnesota by seven Iron Range residents and the non-profit group Up North Jobs.
The lawsuit alleges that financial harm was caused to Minnesota residents by the governor’s executive order to deny access and leases to a potential underground copper-nickel mining operation.
As Alpha News reported in March 2016, “Governor Dayton sent a letter to Ian Duckworth, Chief Operating Officer of Twin Metals Minnesota, informing the organization that the state would oppose its proposal to mine on state land near Ely, Minnesota.” In the letter Dayton said he had “directed the DNR not to authorize or enter into any new state access agreements or lease agreements for mining operations on those state lands [near BWCAW].” (Alpha News)
According to the Mesabi Daily News, Dayton’s executive order resulted in the federal government denying Twin Metals’ renewal of mineral leases in December 2016.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Gerald Tyler, Tom Rukavina, Mike Forsman, Nancy McReady, Jay Mackie, Dan Waters and David Johnson, along with Up North Jobs (a nonprofit group that promotes economic development and job growth in the region) are requesting a St. Louis County judge to declare Dayton’s actions intentionally interfered with the Twin Metals project and violated state statute. They are asking that the executive order denying access to state lands be reversed.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are also claiming:
“Dayton’s executive order directing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to deny Twin Metals access to state lands was an overreach of power that will cost state residents millions of dollars through the school trust fund, 800 jobs connected to the project and another 1,440 jobs in related industries.
The lawsuit also claims that the governor violated the Minnesota constitution, state statute and the U.S. Constitution by taking away property, which they say is owned by the citizens, without a due process hearing.” (Mesabi Daily News)
The lawsuit comes as some mining jobs have returned to the beleaguered Iron Range region. As Alpha News reported last week, the election of President Trump has resulted in US Steel promising to bring jobs back to the American steel industry. One of the facilities located in Northern Minnesota, KeeTac, had been shut down for months resulting in layoffs of Minnesota steelworkers, re-opened in January 2017 with production resuming this month.