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Twin Metals’ subsidiary seeks drilling permits

Stymied by the Biden Administration in its attempts to advance a copper-nickel mining project near Ely, Twin Metals Minnesota is proceeding on separate front to do exploratory drilling nearby.

Franconia Minerals LLC, a subsidiary of Twin Metals, has asked state officials for permission to sink exploratory holes and search for minerals near Babbitt.

In a Sept. 22 application, Franconia identified drill sites between the former Dunka mine, east of Babbitt, and the eastern edge of Bob Bay on Birch Lake.

The move comes in the wake of federal action that stopped the Twin Metals project in its tracks, including the termination of long-held mineral leases and a mining and exploration ban on more than 200,000 acres of federal land, including the location where Twin Metals planned to open its mine.

Franconia is now asking to drill state-owned minerals and its exploration site is a few miles southwest of the proposed Twin Metals mine.

The land Franconia plans to explore is not affected by the moratorium enacted by the Biden Administration.

The DNR has 20 days from the date of the Franconia application to come up with a decision.

Unlike a mine, the exploratory holes do not require extensive environmental permitting. If approved, the company could drill through March 2025.

Previous estimates have suggested the metal deposit in the area that Franconia wants to explore is about an eighth of the size of the one Twin Metals previously sought to mine. There are indications that this deposit has more rare metals, such as platinum and palladium.

The Franconia site is part of the Duluth Complex, an underground formation in the area rich with minerals and eyed by companies as a home for future precious metals mines.

To the southwest is the proposed PolyMet site and its partner Teck Resources is also exploring nearby.

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