By Fabian Cambero
SANTIAGO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Chile's Antofagasta said on Wednesday that it had kicked off the environmental permitting process for its $1.7 billion Twin Metals copper, nickel and platinum mining project in the United States after the Trump administration overturned an Obama-era decision to protect a nearby wilderness area.
Antofagasta Plc said it had submitted a formal mine operation plan (MPO) to U.S. federal and state permitting agencies but expected to wait several years for a decision.
Twin Metal's proposed underground mine in Minnesota would border the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Superior National Forest but in 2016 the Obama administration announced a moratorium on new projects.
Environmental groups said mining in the area posed a risk to gray wolves, black bears, and moose and a variety of fish while the neighbouring Canadian government raised concerns about water quality.
The U.S. government announced last September that the Forest Service would cancel the ban on mining in the area. The company said then that it hoped to produce 20,000 tons of mineralized ore per day in order to extract “metals of strategic importance to the U.S. economy and national defense.”
Antofagasta expects the mine to create 700 jobs and also employ 1,400 contractors once operational.
Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Lisa Shumaker