The Fight For Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Continues – Will Canada Join It?

Moonrise over Garden Lake, on the edge of the Boundary Waters in Minnesota. Photo: Tim Gruber, for The New York Times

By Zoey Shipley

Twin Metals Minnesota, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, has been working to get a permit to build and operate a large copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a million acres of pristine of forest and lakes that straddles the U.S.-Canadian border.    The proposal is pitting Minnesotans who want to see mining jobs return to the region that “has lost a quarter of its mining jobs since 2000,” against those in the tourism industry whose jobs are threatened by the specter of industrial pollution the mine will bring.  And now Rep. Betty McCollum, wants Canada to join the fight against the mine.

Why This Matters:  This project is a continued attack on federally protected lands and provides a false sense of economic security to the region. The mining industry provides little stimulus to the economy of Minnesota, as “mining and natural resources only [made] up about 3 percent of GDP in the state of Minnesota” for 2017, but tourism generates $45 million each year in perpetuity. Moreover, the mining jobs don’t last — the workers and a permanently scarred landscape are commonly left behind when mines close.  Just ask the coal miners in so many communities across the U.S.

Canada May Enter the Fray

This proposed “nonferrous mining [is] a type of metal mining that carries much greater pollution risks than taconite and iron ore mining” and could cause huge damage to the pristine water and natural woodlands in both countries. Representative McCollum (D-MN) has been spearheading the fight to stop this mining project. With the Trump administration supporting it, and after receiving an “embarrassingly inadequate” report (it was an eight-paragraph response) from the State Department on the effects of the mining project, Rep. McCollum is bringing the fight to a global stage by calling on Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, to step in. McCollum is asking the Canadian government to help in getting the release of the “confidential” report from the State Department.

The “Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness …contains 1.1 million acres of pristine water and unspoiled woodlands… [and] 20 percent of all the freshwater in the entire National Forest System” according to Save the Boundary Waters. But there is a long history of mining companies putting profits before workers. Mining workers have experienced health problems like black lungs, unpaid work, and their mining communities are left behind to suffer when the industry moves.

What You Can Do: Click here to send your member of Congress an email to support Rep. McCollum’s effort to block the mine.  You can also get updates from the group Save the Boundary Waters by clicking here.  And, of course, follow ODP as we continue to shine a light on the mining project.

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