20-year ban on mining near the Boundary Waters lifted: What does it mean?
The Trump Administration made the decision to lift the restrictions on mining near the Boundary Waters that was previously put in place by the Obama Administration in 2016.
The move, enacted on September 6, will potentially put a stop to a proposed 20-year ban on copper-nickel mining in the area.
The proposed ban was the main roadblock stopping the Twin Metals mining company from being able to mine.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both visited Duluth within the past four months and have expressed pro-mining views, gaining support for the industry in the area.
In a guest column published by the Mesabi Daily News, Congressman Rick Nolan, the Minnesota District 8 representative, wrote that “unless you’re willing to give up your car, your phone, your TV, and essentially go off the grid, your way of life depends upon these minerals.”
UMD’s Director of Sustainability Mindy Granley said that “when you think about mining, there’s nothing really sustainable about it.”
“By definition, mining is an extractive business, with a faster rate of removal than replenishment. Mining itself is unsustainable,” Granley said.
While the practice of mining is not sustainable, the resources needed to produce clean and sustainable energy are found in copper-nickel mines. Copper and nickel is needed for renewable energy sources such as lithium batteries and wind turbines.
“If we want to live the lifestyles that we do, we do need the copper and nickel and minerals,” Granley said.
Rachel Hopwood, the president of the Bulldogs for the Boundary and an intern for the Save the Boundary Waters organization, said that she doesn’t think that mining is right for the Boundary Waters area.
“I think it is a precious area for national research and we should not sacrifice a beloved place,” Hopwood said.
According to the Save the Boundary Waters website, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America’s most visited wilderness area. The website also states that a single mine in this watershed will continually pollute the wilderness for at least 500 years.
Mining Truth says the same thing. 500 years after the copper-nickel sulfide mine would close, water at the plant site would exceed Minnesota’s standards for heavy metals and sulfates.
“I think they’re looking for immediate money, but these decisions will have long term effects,” MPIRG environmental task force co-leader Kayla Lobbins said.
One of the main pulls of the mining industry is the creation of jobs. Save the Boundary Waters disputes this, however, and said that “tourism generates $913 million in revenue per year in economic benefits and creates 17,000 jobs that support local families and businesses.”
According to an article published by the Star Tribune, the Twin Metals mine will only create 650 jobs. The consequences of runoff from the mine will potentially lead to a decrease in tourism in the area and subsequently a decrease in the number of jobs provided by that industry.
“A lot of people would be out of business,” MPIRG environmental task force co-leader Annika Frazer said.
Correction: A previous version of this article said the mining was in the Boundary Waters. It was corrected to say near the Boundary Waters.