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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Bill could prohibit new mining near BWCA

Opponents also lobby Obama for executive ban

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 4/15/15

REGIONAL—Advo-cates for the Boundary Waters have gained a key ally in their quest to head off proposed copper-nickel mining within the watershed that encompasses the 1.1 million-acre wilderness …

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Bill could prohibit new mining near BWCA

Opponents also lobby Obama for executive ban


REGIONAL—Advo-cates for the Boundary Waters have gained a key ally in their quest to head off proposed copper-nickel mining within the watershed that encompasses the 1.1 million-acre wilderness area.

U.S. Rep. Betty Mc-Collum, DFL-St. Paul, introduced a bill in Congress this week that would would effectively prohibit mining on federally-owned lands within the Rainy River watershed.

The measure would not affect a copper-nickel mine proposed by PolyMet Mining, which is located within the St. Louis River watershed, which ultimately empties into Lake Superior.

Whether it would affect leases held by Twin Metals, which is developing a proposed mining operation southeast of Ely, remains to be seen.

Those leases, now controlled by Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, expired over a year ago. While the company has applied for renewal, opponents of the mine are hoping to prevent that from happening.

Introduction of McCollum’s bill, known as the National Park and Wilderness Waters Protection Act, is just the latest action taken by the recently-established Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, a joint effort by a coalition of environmental groups aimed at what many wilderness advocates see as an existential threat to water quality within the canoe country.

Bill supporters say it represents a historic step towards completing permanent protection for the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park, even though it is seen as having little chance of passage in the Republican-dominated Congress. But Becky Rom, an Ely resident and national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, said the bill “sets up the framework for a policy debate.”

While the McCollum bill may face a tough path to passage, Rom was in Washington recently to lobby the Obama administration to enact a 20-year moratorium on copper-nickel mining within the Boundary Waters watershed. Rom said the president can take such action on an executive basis, and noted that the president did just that recently when he placed a moratorium on uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park.

Twin Metals, in a statement issued Tuesday, made clear its strong opposition to McCollum’s bill and any possible moratorium on mining within the Rainy River watershed. “The vast Rainy River basin contains millions of acres of valuable state and federal minerals, and in much of the area environmentally responsible mining is currently allowed and encouraged by both state and federal law,” said the company.

“The withdrawal of federal minerals from future development across this wide area of northern Minnesota, and the related impact of negating future development of state and private minerals, would have a devastating impact on future job growth and the overall economy across the Iron Range and throughout northern Minnesota. Especially devastating would be the potential loss of billions of dollars in future revenues to the Minnesota Permanent School Trust Fund.”

Mining opponents contend that copper-nickel mining poses risks unfamiliar to Minnesotans, since the sulfur-bearing ore that contains the metals can leach sulfuric acid when exposed to air and water, and they fear the impacts of such pollution threatens a viable local tourism economy based on wilderness travel.

“Sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters would do more harm than good for this beloved region,” said Rom. “Allowing industrialized mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters would not only pollute water, it would also destroy National Forest lands in areas now used for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, hiking, logging, and other activities,” said Rom.

McCollum introduced her bill in the same week that a new statewide poll conducted for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership found significant opposition to copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters, even among those polled in northeastern Minnesota. The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt & Grove Research, found nearly half of Minnesotans (46 percent) were undecided about copper-nickel mining in Minnesota. Twenty-eight percent expressed opposition to copper-nickel mining, while 26 percent expressed support. But when asked of their views on copper-nickel mining near the popular Boundary Waters Canoe Area, opposition jumped sharply, to 62 percent statewide, and to a surprising 61 percent within the seven-county Arrowhead region. The poll, at the same time, found strong support (72 percent) for northeastern Minnesota’s iron mining industry.

The poll also found that Minnesotans remain skeptical of the promises of mining companies. Only 33 percent of those polled felt mining companies could be trusted to protect against seepage, leaks, or accidents that could pollute the air and water. Fifty-four percent felt the companies could not be trusted.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has gained strength in recent months with the addition of nine paid staff members, including three now based in Ely. The campaign, led by Ely-based Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, has ramped up its political efforts at a time when most local residents have come to see the Twin Metals proposal as at least several years away, and possibly more. The Twin Metals project, which began as a joint venture is now wholly- owned by Antofagasta.

If ultimately developed, the Twin Metals mine would create about 850 jobs and produce about 50,000 tons of ore per day, according to the company. Current plans call for an underground mining operation located about seven miles southeast of Ely.

Twin Metals officials say their company is fully committed to protecting water quality in the Boundary Waters. “Twin Metals Minnesota is fully committed to protecting Minnesota’s wilderness, natural environment and recreational resources. We share the vision and goals of all Minnesotans to protect the precious and unique environmental qualities and wilderness character of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and all of northern Minnesota,” said the company in its statement.

Mining opponents say the economic benefits of the mine are potentially outweighed by the risks to the environment and the tourism economy that has developed in the region. For backers of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, the risks are too great to justify any consideration of new mining ventures, and that’s why the group is seeking to head off additional mining proposals.

And the group is fighting mining plans on multiple fronts. In addition to the recent legislation, lobbying, and polling, the group has commissioned economic studies that suggest the economic benefits of new mining have been oversold, and that the negative economic consequences have been largely ignored by mining boosters.


21 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here

Another Twin Cityite trying to control our lives up here in our own backyard. No thanks, Betty Boop.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Haven't heard from you in a while OrrCountry! I agree, I know it might sound cliche but she has no business trying to start this bill. She obviously knows nothing about Northen Minnesota and the sound mining practices that we utilizie daily.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Betty Mc-Collum is to prohibit Copper-Nickel mining on federal land. Federal land belongs to all of us, every citizen of the United States. It is not YOUR BACKYARD. The Boundary Waters are a treasure for all of us and decisions need to be made based on science not emotion.

Friday, April 17, 2015

#1) It is our backyard. We live here, we've been here for 5 generations. It is our backyard.

#2) We are satisfied to let science, not emotion dictate the decision to mine or not to mine. We have always stood behind science, whether it's been logging in the BWCA, outboard motors and snowmobiles in the BWCA. But whenever science supports our way of life, the environmental wackos go emotional.

Royal, you can't have it both ways. Are you behind science (if it supports the mining operations) or will you go emotional when they do?

Friday, April 17, 2015

If the scientific studies and data are independent and not bought and paid for by either side of the issue than yes I would be fine with and supportive of Copper-Nickel mining. There are abandoned mines all over the state of Colorado that were left by the mining companies to be cleaned up by tax payers. There is to much at stake here to not use an abundance of caution and weigh all aspects of the issue.

The Federal land that would be mined belongs to all of us. You, me and every American citizen. We have had a home on Vermilion for almost 30 years but that doesn't make the lake any more mine that a family that comes up to the state park or a resort.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Royal: Your first sentence is accurate and I can agree with that. However, the environmental wackos are playing loose with facts and using emotional appeals all across the nation. I mean, they even used a little boy as a prop to gather the name of facts. So, while I can see companies trying to get this right, the environmental wackos will use any means and lies to get their way.

You have already declared your opposition to the projects by using the old worn out saw that the federal land belongs to all of us. The environmental wackos think the federal land belongs exclusively to them and those who agree with their agenda. Make no mistake about it. I've been dealing with these people for nearly 50 years now and I have found few that care about our interests in northern Minnesota. In their opinion, it's their land...period.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I was born and raised i Northern Minnesota,and I believe like you I have also worked for the mines.

As you put it, “The same old saw”... really is people like you saying this is "my backyard", this is about my job so all the rest of you who don't adopt the same attitudes like me go to hell and butt out!!

Unless you own all the property up here (and you don't) it's not just your backyard. It's everyone who owns land up here's backyard.They have a sayso on how their land is used.Fact is the latest Duluth poll shows 66% of people...not from the metro, not statewide...but from Northern Minnesota DO NOT support mining in the BWCA. Translation 2 out of every 3 of your neighbors...who too have been here for generations say NOT IN MY BACKYARD!

A word of advice from one northern Minnesota boy to another; don't bite the hand that sometimes feeds you. Tourism is a big part of this fragile economy up here...with recent news maybe going forward the biggest part. RoyalEnfield, and people like him can literally bring up everything they need from Minneapolis to enjoy their time up at the lake and not spend one dime up here, and guess what? There’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You are not paying attention if you can’t see the mines are in for a long down period, maybe the worst down turn we have ever seen. Like one report said look at Eveleth and Ely. One economy based on mining, the other based on tourism. Ely’s gross sales revenue was almost 3 times that of Eveleth’s, and like the report said Ely hasn’t had an operating mine since the 1960s. Doesn't take a scholar to figure out where the money prefers to be spent does it?

Lastly, Calling people wacko's and Cityites because they express opinions different from yours opens yourself to the same name calling you know? Hicks from the sticks, north woods hillbillies, and wood ticks just to name a few. You see they have them for you too.

I think you get my point.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hey Vermilion_Viking. I'm trying to decern what it is you are trying to say here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The area belongs to all citizens,that is why we are called a nation. That is why that land was U.S. land before it was even a state.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Well then shoe, the land belongs to all of us. So if we want to mine that belongs to us, we should be able to. Glad to see you agree with us, owners also.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Apparently Orrcountry anyone who doesn't agree with you is a "wacko" and a liar. There is a middle ground. Not everyone who gives a damn about the environment is a "wacko". The Twin Cityites aren't trying to "control your lives" but instead to protect the environment from people who only see $$$ and are willing to ignore science. As that Vermilion Viking character said, tourism is a huge and important part of the environment in the Arrowhead. As a side note: I shop at Super One, Zup's and Northwoods True Value for our needs. Sometimes hall materials back to the Twin Cities from Northwoods because I would much rather support the northern businesses.

Monday, April 20, 2015

No Royal, not anyone. Just those that don't have respect for us.

It's good to see you are from the Twin Cities. Why am I not surprised?

If the land belongs to all of us, then all of us should have access to it. As it stands now, the land belongs to all of us, but we have to do and use it as the environmental wackos dictate. That doesn't seem fair or compassionate.

I will always defend our way of life in this beautiful part of the country, right up to the moment I draw my last breath. That means I care about the land and it's people.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Orrcountry, It is not some socially transmitted disease to be from the Twin Cities. I doubt you love the lake and surrounding area anymore than I do. You still don't seem to get the idea that since the land (Federal Land in question) belongs to all of us that means someone can't lock you out of it AND you can't allow the mining companies to damage it for the almighty dollar with out regard for all factors including potential jobs but also potential long term ramifications. I enjoy your closed minded view of me being from the Twin Cities. It means nothing that I have been enjoying the area since the late 60's and owned property paying a lot of taxes and supporting local businesses since 1986. Have a wonderful day.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Royal, it's a Wonderful Life, ain't it. Anti-mining 612ers infiltrating mining country purporting to care for the area and it's people.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dang orrcountry?!? You seem to prefer to live in the world of "us vs. them". Fortunately 99% of us do not feel that way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You environmental wackos are just filled with hate, aren't you. When logging was to begin legally at Little Alfie, you sabotaged logging equipment, chained yourselves to logging equipment, shouted obsenities at local people, you let the air out of people's boat trailer tires at landings because you hate outboard motors in the BWCA, you flip the finger at people who are legally using outboard motors. There is no limit to what you will do to get your way. Even down in Wisconsin, you harassed diamond drillers, stole their cameras from them and destroyed them among other things.

You just hate us and you are going to try to stop copper-nickel mining and the year-round, well-paying jobs that our people sorely need because you hate copper-nickel mining.

Remember...when you hate others, the others win. Why not try working with us instead of against us?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ah, yes ... the times have not changed. After such a nice hiatus, too. Meanwhile I struggle to decern the import of many of these comments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ah yes. jt is back with her taunting blather, trying to create conflict wherever she can.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

And jt, who has been a male all his life ... but what difference do facts make ... just won a bet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I think the subject got left behind awhile back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Pat Hawkinson

I know i'm way late commenting on this article, but i'd like to point that our wonderful Orrcountry iron range warrior up here is also very anti-union. I found out accidentally. Check it out,12264?content_source=&category_id=&search_filter=polymet&event_mode=&event_ts_from=&list_type=&order_by=&order_sort=&content_class=&sub_type=stories&town_id=#comments

Thursday, September 3, 2015