US President Donald Trump's administration has decided to renew leases for mining copper and nickel on land bordering a nature reserve in Minnesota, rolling back the environmental regulation put in place by predecessor Barack Obama administration.
The renewed leases will clear the way for carrying on with the extraction plans of Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta PLC, owned by the family of billionaire Andronico Luksic, the administration announced on Saturday.
The company had previously presented a project for mining copper and nickel right next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a nature reserve with an area of some 450,000 sq.km of lakes and woodland in northern Minnesota near the Canadian border, and protected since 1926.
However, two years ago the Obama government shut those plans down to avoid the risk of irreparable damage to the beautifully preserved Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area from acid mine drainage.
The US press also noted that Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, rent a house from Luksic for $15,000 a month.
Asked about that relationship, a US official denied any connection between the mining leases and the house rental.
In a statement, Twin Metals Minnesota hailed the Trump administration's decision, which it described as "an important first step to ensure the certainty of investments in US mining projects and to reaffirm long-standing property rights and the rule of law".
The area has one of the largest reserves in the world of untapped copper and nickel, the company said upon presenting its project, and has an estimated value of $2.8 billion.
Twin Metals Minnesota promises to invest over $2.8 billion and directly create 650 jobs.
Since his arrival at the White House, Trump has repealed numerous Obama regulations while promising a strong future for the US mining and energy sectors, which he considers asphyxated by the excessive zeal of his predecessor in environmental matters.