MINNEAPOLIS — A mining company that hopes to build an underground copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness sued the federal government Monday to try to keep the mineral rights leases it needs for the $2.8 billion project to go forward.

Twin Metals Minnesota’s lawsuit seeks to invalidate a recent opinion by the solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior that the company doesn’t have an automatic right to renew its two leases, which were first issued in 1966 and last renewed in 2004. The lawsuit said earlier renewals were routinely granted.

The solicitor’s opinion, sent to the federal Bureau of Land Management, has “cast a cloud of uncertainty” over the project, blocking the company from engaging in long-term planning, investment, development and operational decisions, Twin Metals’ Chief Operating Officer Ian Duckworth said in a statement.

The lawsuit decried the solicitor’s opinion as an “unlawful evisceration” of the company’s property rights, because nobody would incur the risks of making the necessary investments in a mine without the right to renew. The complaint alleged the government changed the rules amid “increased political pressure and intense opposition from environmental groups.”

The mine near Ely would lie within a watershed that flows into the pristine Boundary Waters. While there are vast untapped reserves of copper, nickel and precious metals under northeastern Minnesota, the metals are tied up in sulfide-bearing minerals, which can leach sulfuric acid and heavy metals when exposed to air and water.

Gov. Mark Dayton denied Twin Metals access to state-owned lands in March, and the Interior Department issued its opinion the next day.

The U.S. Forest Service said in June that it was “deeply concerned” about potential acid mine drainage, launching a scientific review to help it decide whether to consent to the renewals, and opened up the issue for public comment. The agency has not set a deadline for completing that review.

The Bureau of Land Management has “absolutely clear” authority to renew or deny the leases, according to Becky Rom, national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

“Scientific evidence shows that a sulfide-ore copper mine next to the Boundary Waters creates an unacceptable risk of harm to our priceless Wilderness,” Rom said in a statement. “Federal mining leases that pose significant risks to the Boundary Waters should be denied.”

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness said Twin Metals is trying to prevent “a diligent and comprehensive review.”

“Over 65,000 public comments were submitted this summer opposing renewal of these leases near the Boundary Waters,” executive director Paul Danicic said in a statement. “The BLM and U.S. Forest Service have heard from thousands of people that sulfide mining on the edge of the wilderness is an unacceptable risk. Twin Metals’ lawsuit seeks to silence them.”

Twin Metals, which has invested more than $400 million, hasn’t yet submitted a formal proposal for the mine, which it said would be subject to a thorough environmental review by multiple federal and state agencies. The company contends it can mine in an environmentally responsible way while creating hundreds of jobs.