Morrison Foerster won a victory for pro bono client Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW), a nonprofit coalition of local residents and businesses, in its long-running litigation to prevent sulfide ore mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) along the Minnesota-Canada border, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissing a lawsuit by mining companies that sought to reverse several government actions.
The plaintiffs, Twin Metals Minnesota and its subsidiary, Franconia Minerals, which are part of the Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta, challenged a series of actions by the Department of the Interior concerning their mining operations in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota, which threaten the adjacent BWCAW’s pristine waters. The United States, Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, and several Interior officials, as well as a group of environmental organizations and recreational businesses who joined as Defendant-Intervenors, moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. Finding that the Court lacks jurisdiction over two of plaintiffs’ claims and that the remaining two fail to state a viable claim, the Court granted the defendants’ and defendant-intervenors’ motions in full.
From 2017 to 2021, MoFo represented NMW in two lawsuits in D.C. federal court against the prior administration and the mining companies over mineral leases for the proposed mine. That litigation involved the Trump administration’s decision to reverse the Obama administration’s decision to deny the lease renewals. The Biden administration rejected applications for new preference right leases in October 2021 and, in January 2022, voided two federal mineral leases improperly renewed during the prior administration.
The mining companies sued the government in D.C. federal court in August 2022, and MoFo moved to intervene and filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of NMW and several of its local business members. The Court granted the motion to intervene in May 2023 and granted the motion to dismiss in its entirety on September 6, 2023.
The MoFo team representing NMW is led by Washington, D.C. partner Alex Ward, together with Washington, D.C. associates Haydn Forrest, Robin Smith, Krista Nunez, and Roke Iko, and New York associate Hannah Yang.