Continue Protecting The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

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Canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely, Minn.CreditBre McGee/The St. Cloud Times, via Associated Press

None in our immediate circle has been there, but it looks like our kind of place. We hope to see it, to canoe it, to breathe in that clean air. This editorial makes it clear what’s at stake, and what needs to be done. It’s not the messengers, it’s the message (but wow on the messenger front too):

Protect Minnesota’s Boundary Water

MINNESOTA’S Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of America’s most popular wild destinations. Water is its lifeblood. Over 1,200 miles of streams wend their way through 1.1 million acres thick with fir, pine and spruce and stippled by lakes left behind by glaciers. Moose, bears, wolves, loons, ospreys, eagles and northern pike make their home there and in the surrounding Superior National Forest.

All of this is now threatened by a proposal for a huge mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide ores. The mine would lie within the national forest along the South Kawishiwi River, which flows directly into the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The prospect of any major industrial activity in the watershed of such a place would be deeply troubling. But this kind of heavy-metal mining is in a destructive class all its own. Enormous amounts of unusable waste rock containing sulfides are left behind on the surface. A byproduct of this kind of mining is sulfuric acid, which often finds its way into nearby waterways. Similar mines around the country have already poisoned lakes and thousands of miles of streams.

The consequence of acid mine drainage polluting the pristine Boundary Waters would be catastrophic. It is a risk we simply can’t take.

Scientific evaluations of the project and the industry’s destructive record point to a major threat to a treasured ecosystem. Poison the headwaters, poison the system. And this mine would poison not just the Boundary Waters but also Voyageurs National Park, which is on the wilderness’s northwest corner, and the adjacent Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario.

In March, Minnesota’s governor, Mark Dayton of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, courageously announced his opposition to the project, calling the Boundary Waters one of the state’s “crown jewels” and a “national treasure.” And in April, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell identified the Boundary Waters as a “special area” that should be re-examined to “better understand the value of the land and water and potential impacts of development.”

The company that has proposed the mine, Twin Metals, is owned by the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, one of the world’s largest copper producers. Twin Metals holds two now-expired mineral leases first issued in 1966, before modern environmental laws were enacted. The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages the government’s mineral estate, is now weighing whether to renew those leases…

Read the whole editorial here.

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