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US House delays vote on Minn. mining bill

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House on Wednesday debated legislation that would reopen areas near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota to copper-nickel exploration and potential mining, but stopped short of taking any vote.

House members hotly debated the bill that would end an Obama-administration ban on exploration and mining near the federal wilderness. But a memo from the House whip said a final vote was postponed until Thursday, Nov. 30.

The bill is aimed at Twin Metals, the Chilean-owned company that wants to build a massive underground copper mine near the Kawishiwi River southeast of Ely, Minn.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management last January refused to renew mineral leases held by Twin Metals that allowed them to explore in the area. Moreover, the Forest Service moved to ban all new mining activities near the BWCAW for at least two years and potentially longer while the agency conducts a generic study on the potential of mining to damage the wilderness.

Critics say the mine could send tainted runoff into the pristine BWCAW watershed.

H.R. 3905, sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., also prohibits any president from creating any new national monument in Minnesota without congressional approval.

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