Editorial Roundup: Study should prompt mining ban near BWCA

Published 8:50 pm Friday, July 1, 2022

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is much closer to the protection it needs from mining pollution after the release of a long-awaited U.S. Forest Service study that gives support to a 20-year mining moratorium on federal land near the BWCA.

The report provides more details on the likelihood that copper-nickel mining carries too much risk of acid drainage and other serious water pollution and shouldn’t be allowed in the watershed of the fragile BWCA.

The review looked at 20 other copper-nickel mines in the U.S. and Canada and found that all harmed the environment and that those damages were often underestimated during environmental reviews.

A proposal to mine so near the pristine waters that enter into the BWCA was a bad idea that was allowed to linger during the last presidency.

The 20-year ban on mineral extraction was first proposed at the end of the Obama administration, but President Donald Trump canceled the proposed moratorium. Last fall the Biden administration resurrected the proposal and ordered the unfinished review be completed.

The public has 30 days to comment on the environmental review, which will then be forwarded to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. She will make the final decision whether to place about 350 square miles (250,000 acres) of northern Minnesota off-limits to new copper-nickel mines.

Twin Metals has faced multiple setbacks on the state and federal levels to its proposal to build an underground mine for copper, nickel and precious metals near Ely, including the cancellation of two previously awarded leases.

The 20-year moratorium would not affect a PolyMet Mining proposal for a copper-nickel mine because it is outside the Boundary Waters watershed. But that plan is also tied up in court and regulatory reviews.

The U.S. does need the metals mined from the ground, but there are places so pristine that mining is inappropriate.

While a 20-year moratorium on mining near the BWCA now appears likely, a permanent mining ban should be enacted. But that’s something only Congress can do.

Mankato Free Press, June 28

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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