Pro-mining group, leader suing Dayton

by Tom Coombe -

For the second time in a year, Gov. Mark Dayton is facing legal action from some of the region’s strongest supporters of copper-nickel mining.
The executive director of Ely-based Up North Jobs as well as the group itself have filed suit against Gov. Mark Dayton, alleging the state’s chief executive violated state law in 2016 when he issued an executive order that blocked Twin Metals Minnesota from accessing state lands for mineral development.
Plaintiffs also say that Dayton “intentionally interfered” with leasehold interests of Twin Metals Minnesota as well as Franconia, and that his actions conflicted with state law directing economic returns associated with school trust lands.
The suit brought by Up North Jobs and executive director Gerald Tyler, an Ely area resident, also seeks an injunction against Dayton’s directive to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, in order to allow mineral exploration to continue as legal proceedings continue.
Filed Dec. 17, the action is similar in many respects to a suit brought, and later dropped, by Tyler and several others in early-2017. When the suit was pulled, Tyler indicated that he and other plaintiffs, including current St. Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina and former commissioner Mike Forsman, did not have the money to proceed with legal action.
Neither Rukavina nor Forsman are listed individually as plaintiffs in the most recent legal action, which was filed by Joe Leoni of Virginia’s Trenti Law Firml.
The suit stems from highly-publicized and controversial actions taken by Dayton in March, 2016. That’s when he directed the DNR “to not authorize or enter into any new access agreements or lease agreements for mining operations, test drilling or exploration” in the Rainy River Watershed of the Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
At the time, Dayton took clear aim at the project proposed near Ely by Twin Metals Minnesota, calling it “fanciful” and alleging it would lead to environmental damage and harm Ely’s economy.
Up North Jobs argues that it has legal standing in the case because Dayton’s action “deprived plaintiff members of employment and economic activity.” The plaintiffs also say they were harmed because they have direct interest in the development and productive use of school trust lands.
The plaintiffs claim that “given the interconnected nature of the mineral deposits, the directive by Gov. Dayton in denying access to state lands impairs members of the mining community to develop these mineral rights to the fullest potential, prevents plaintiffs the economic development and job growth its members depend on, denies plaintiffs the opportunity to pursue its core mission and denies the recipients of the Permanent School Trust Fund and of tax forfeited lands the ability to maximize their gains.”
Also at issue is Dayton’s action to contact federal officials and urge the rejection of long-held federal mineral leases. Those leases, which had been routinely renewed, were pulled by the Obama Administration but restored in late-2017 via a directive by the Trump Administration.