Groups that oppose nonferrous minerals mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness said Thursday they anticipate the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) will reinstate two Twin Metals leases before 2018 ends.

“We anticipate the Trump administration’s DOI will approve them,” said Becky Rom, national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. The approval will benefit Antofagasta, which owns a large stake in Twin Metals, she lamented in a telephone conference call, contending Antofagasta has a checkered environmental track record. Rom also chastised the Trump administration, claiming the president’s staff cancelled an ongoing environmental assessment and concealed its preliminary results.

During the waning days of the Obama administration late in 2016, the DOI refused to renew the Twin Metals mineral leases. Nonferrous mining supporters said the move was politically motivated. At the time, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said she was disappointed the refusal to renew existing was based on administrative rule making rather than a thorough scientific review.

In the Thursday conference call, opponents used the same argument to condemn the potential lease renewals. They said the Trump administration is using the renewal process because it simplifies the process. If Twin Metals had to apply for new leases, a more thorough scientific review would be required, they argued.

“The legal foundation of this attempt is quickly crumbling,” Rom said. 

Alison Flint, counsel and senior policy analyst at the Wilderness Society said the decision, if it advances as opponents predict,will be challenged in court.

Jason Zabokrtsky, owner of Ely Outfitters, argued that in the long run, the value of tourism will exceed the value of mining.

“Sulfide or copper mining will devastate the economy of Northeastern Minnesota,” he said.

Comment from Twin Metals could not immediately be obtained but will be included when it is received.