Interior Department Demands Thousands Of Dollars To Release Records On Critical Mine Cancellation

By Tristan Justice (The Federalist)

May 2, 2022

The U.S. Department of the Interior is stonewalling a request for public records made through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with claims that the disclosure of documents related to a critical minerals project is irrelevant to agency decision-making.

In March, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI), a nonprofit transparency group based in Washington D.C., filed a FOIA request compelling the release of internal records related to the Interior Department’s lease cancellation for the Twin Metals project in Minnesota. The proposed nickel and cobalt mine in the Superior National Forest would be one of the largest in the nation, putting critical minerals on the market currently dominated by China. President Joe Biden’s Department of the Interior, however, blocked approval for the project in January despite the minerals’ importance in electric car batteries.

“You have asked us to waive the fees for processing your request,” wrote Department of the Interior Deputy FOIA Officer Leah Fairman in an April response reviewed by The Federalist, outlining the criteria for approval. Such a request must be “in the public interest because it is likely to contribute to public understanding of government operations or activities, and not primarily in your commercial interest.”

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