Around 25 members from the Laurentian Chamber of Commerce gathered on a weekday afternoon to hear from Brian Syers, a mining engineer with Twin Metals Minnesota.

"It's huge. It's one of the largest untapped copper nickel deposits in the world. It's about four billion tons," said Syers. "That's not just Twin Metals that's the whole thing. It's currently estimated at about four billion tons of ore, which is a lot."

He's referring to the Duluth Complex in its entirety. More specifically, Twin Metals has been focused on exploring a piece of land known as the Maturi Deposit.

"That's where over a million feet of core has been drilled out," said Syers. "So that's where we've spent a lot of our time and energy, defining this project and how to move it forward." 

Bob McFarlin of Twin Metals said before it can move forward, the project has to be proposed.

"None of that has taken place and none of it can take place until a project is actually proposed. And our project has not been proposed."

He's referring to the standards that potential mining projects like Twin Metals are required to go through under the National Environmental Policy Act process. Under NEPA rules, a company submits a project that will be studied and evaluated for years. Syers said the process is complex, but the conclusion is simple.

"It either will or it will not impact the environment. And so, if it does not, then you are allowed to proceed. If it does, then that sends it all to square one, or the project can't exist or go forward anyway."

Many in the room wondered what Twin Metals is doing while the mineral lease decision is being debated.

"We are trying to design the best project we can to get through the environmental permitting process with all of the laws in place," said Syers.

McFarlin added, "We're proceeding as if those leases will eventually be renewed and that we'll be allowed to develop a project and put forward a project proposal for environmental review.”