Sulfide-ore copper mining threatens the Boundary Waters.

America’s most visited Wilderness area is threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining. This toxic mining practice has never before been allowed in Minnesota.

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The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America’s most visited wilderness area. It contains 1.1 million acres of pristine water and unspoiled woodlands. Along with the Superior National Forest, it contains 20 percent of all the fresh water in the entire National Forest System.

Sulfide-ore copper mining within the Boundary Waters Wilderness watershed is an imminent threat. Mining companies have filed suit to demand mineral leases. Industrial mines have been proposed on the edge of the Wilderness.

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Pollution from these mines will flow directly into the heart of the Boundary Waters. Even conservative models of pollution show that waterways would carry contaminants into the Wilderness. A single mine in this watershed will continually pollute the wilderness for at least 500 years.

This is more than just one mine. It is the first step toward an industrial corridor of mines, mills, roads, rail lines and toxic tailing piles at the edge of the Boundary Waters.

What's at stake?

Photo, Jim Brandenburg

Critical Habitat

The pristine waters and unspoiled forests of the Boundary Waters provide critical habitat for wildlife, including several endangered and threatened species such as the Canada lynx and moose.

Incredible Experiences

The Boundary Waters is where generations of children developed a lifelong love of nature that brought them back as adults. Action is needed to ensure future generations can enjoy the pristine waters, world-renowned angling and incomparable scenery that so many have come to know and cherish.

A Thriving Economy

The Boundary Waters is the economic lifeblood of northeastern Minnesota's lucrative tourism industry. Tourism generates $913 million in revenue per year in economic benefits and creates 17,000 jobs that support local families and businesses.


Nicholas A. Tonelli, Flickr

Guaranteed to Pollute

Sulfide-ore copper mining is much more toxic than Minnesota’s taconite mining. It produces giant waste piles that, when exposed to air and water, leach sulfuric acid, heavy metals and sulfates. Sulfide-ore copper mines pollute groundwater, rivers and lakes.

In the history of sulfide mining, pollution has never been avoided.

Hard rock mining, most of which is sulfide mining, contributes to more superfund sites than any other activity.

The Impact

Photo, Jim Brandenburg

Aquatic Ecosystems Destroyed

Acid mine drainage, heavy metals and associated pollutants from sulfide-ore copper mines harm microorganisms, aquatic plants and fish. Acid mine drainage also increases the acidity of waters. As acidity increases, we know certain species will be unable to survive. Minnows are impacted first, followed by walleye, northerns, smallmouth bass, trout and loons.

Increased Mercury in People & Fish

10 percent of the newborns in Minnesota’s Lake Superior Basin already have blood mercury levels above the safe limit—likely because their mothers ate more fish, the primary source of mercury in people. Sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters exposes local residents to a similar risk.

Photo, Jim Brandenburg

Forests Suffer

The forests of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are deeply interconnected with the streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater. Mining activities would disrupt this relationship, resulting in the loss of forest area and native biodiversity.


Mount Polley Tailings Pond Breach—Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

The Risk of Environmental Catastrophe Is Very Real

The mining industry has a long history of major infrastructure failures with catastrophic environmental impacts. Even state-of-the-art mines are at risk for this level of disaster. In August 2014, the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in British Columbia had a tailings dam breach that released 4.5 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into a lake and river system that was a priceless salmon spawning area. At about the same time, a mine in Mexico spilled 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution into two rivers, wiping out the water supply for a vast rural area that depended on the river water for domestic use and agriculture. Fish and wildlife were devastated, and the list of recent disasters goes on.

Don't risk this amazing place.

Sulfide-ore copper mining will hurt the Boundary Waters Wilderness unless you take action to stop it.

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