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 Region of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Superior National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, and Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park, and public health and the regional economy of northeastern Minnesota


President Biden has the chance to save America’s most-visited wilderness area and reverse former President Trump’s rushed attempt to allow a foreign mining company to destroy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Trump administration attempted to ruin the Boundary Waters by ramming through two federal mining leases for Antofagasta’s Twin Metals Minnesota. These mineral leases were terminated in 2016 and cannot lawfully be resurrected and renewed. The Trump administration’s action followed an abrupt cancellation of a promised assessment of a proposed 20-year ban on copper mining on Superior National Forest lands near the Boundary Waters. The Trump administration said there was no new scientific information, even though dozens of reports and studies were submitted during the public comment period. Cancellation of the assessment and the rush to resurrect federal mineral leases are all part of an effort to suppress good science and sound economics and decisions based on the best available science.

President Biden can reverse this trend 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 its watershed from the mineral leasing laws for twenty years. 

A mineral withdrawal would start with a two-year segregation period for the federally managed minerals within Boundary Waters watershed. The segregation period would allow land managers to hit the “pause”  button, retain the status quo, and weigh carefully the impacts of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining before granting companies the right to mine next to the Boundary Waters. The public, transparent process would allow the best science to prevail, as well as encourage robust public involvement in deciding what is the best future for the Boundary Waters. 

More than 55 science and economic studies document the significant and long-lasting harm to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the surrounding Superior National Forest, and the Arrowhead region if copper mining were to occur in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters. 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 the Superior National Forest.

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

The Boundary Waters, a 1.1 million acre lakeland wilderness area, has over 1,000 lakes and 1,200 miles of rivers and streams containing clean, drinkable water. It offers unmatched fishing, hunting, and recreational opportunities for all Americans to enjoy. 

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 income over 20 years if copper mining were banned from the watershed of the Boundary Waters, and the regional economy would be worse with a 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:

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