Know the Science

The Biden administration must protect the Boundary Waters through a mineral withdrawal

Proposed Sulfide-Ore Copper Mining Threatens Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other parts of the Superior National Forest; Voyageurs National Park; Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park; and public health and the regional economy of northeastern Minnesota


President Biden can save America’s most-visited Wilderness Area. The Trump Administration created a huge threat to the Boundary Waters by ramming through two federal mining leases for Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta’s Twin Metals. Those mineral leases, which were terminated in 2016, cannot lawfully be reinstated and renewed. The Trump Administration actions also included its abrupt cancellation of a promised environmental assessment of a proposed 20-year ban on copper mining on Superior National Forest lands upstream from the Boundary Waters. The Trump Administration claimed that no new scientific information existed, even though dozens of reports and studies were submitted during the public comment period. Cancellation of the environmental assessment and the rush to resurrect federal mineral leases were part of an effort to aid the mining company by suppressing rigorous science and sound economics analysis.

President Biden should halt this threat to these magnificent public lands and waters by initiating a mineral withdrawal: the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service can recommend that the Secretary of the Interior exercise her authority under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to withdraw the federal lands within the Boundary Waters watershed from the mineral leasing program for twenty years. 

The mineral withdrawal process would start with a two-year segregation period for the federally owned minerals within Boundary Waters watershed. The segregation period would allow land managers to weigh carefully the impacts of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining before granting companies the right to mine near the Boundary Waters. This public, transparent process would enable sound science to prevail and encourage robust public involvement in determining the future for the Boundary Waters region. 

More than 55 scientific and economic studies document the significant and long-lasting harm to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the surrounding Superior National Forest lands and waters, and the Arrowhead region if copper mining were permitted to occur in the Boundary Waters watershed. In 2016 the Forest Service concluded that copper mining in the Wilderness watershed would be an unacceptable risk to the lakes, rivers, and wetlands of the Boundary Waters and large portions of the rest of the Superior National Forest.

The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited National Wilderness Area.

The Boundary Waters is a 1.1 million acre national Wilderness Area, with more than 1,000 lakes and 1,200 miles of rivers and streams containing clean, drinkable water. It is a vast, accessible public land and water resource that offers unmatched fishing, hunting, and recreational opportunities that hundreds of thousands of Americans enjoy every year. 

The Boundary Waters is the heart of the sustainable and growing amenity-based economy of northeastern Minnesota. An independent economic study documents that the region would generate dramatically more jobs and more income over 20 years if copper mining were banned from the watershed of the Boundary Waters; the regional economy would be worse with Antofagasta's Twin Metals mine.  

Below you will find scientific and economic reports that the Trump Administration said do not exist.

Please do your part to protect the Boundary Waters and other protected lands and waters by using and sharing this science: