Editorial: Signs point to no mining near Boundary Waters

Published 9:34 am Monday, May 9, 2016

The signs just keep coming — and they are providing a crystal clear message to Minnesotans and the entire United States: The 1.1-million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness deserves permanent protection from heavy-metal mining and its all-too-common pollution problems.

The latest sign came April 19 when U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, speaking to the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., called out the Boundary Waters as one of three specific public lands nationwide that need to be re-examined through the eyes of modern science as to whether development makes sense. Jewell’s speech focused on what America needs to do in the next century to conserve its public lands.

In the case of the Boundary Waters, that development involves the desire of Twin Metals Minnesota to mine for heavy metals just a few miles from the Boundary Waters and well within its watershed. That means if such a mining operation would pollute any water with sulfides, and that water would fail to be contained, it would flow into the Boundary Waters, neighboring Voyageurs National Park and north into Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park.

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You don’t need to look very hard to find similar sulfide mining operations nationwide that have failed to meet “no pollution” promises, resulting in horrific environmental damage and costing millions of taxpayer dollars.

That industry track record is likely part of why Jewell made her comments, and it’s certainly behind Gov. Mark Dayton in early March formally declaring his strong opposition to sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters.

Dayton’s statement came with a mandate to the state Department of Natural Resources “not to authorize or enter into any new access or lease agreements for mining operations” in an area near Ely that Twin Metals had been drilling for testing until 2013, when mining leases issued a half-century ago lapsed.

Shortly after Dayton’s statement, the federal Bureau of Land Management, in yet another sign of protecting the Boundary Waters, determined those leases cannot be automatically renewed. Rather, the BLM has the power “to grant or deny the pending renewal application.”

Jewell’s comments indicate those leases should be reviewed in the context of 50 years of advancements in science plus the need to protect public lands and ecosystems from unrelenting development pressures. Not to mention decades of pollution problems created nationwide by these kinds of mines.

The signs are obvious — and growing: Permanently protect the Boundary Waters from the dangers of heavy-metal mining.


— St. Cloud Times, May 2

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