ELY, MN-- Earlier this week the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) volunteered to "cure the deficiencies" in its decision to extend thirteen prospecting permits for Antofagasta's Twin Metals, the Chilean mining conglomerate proposing to conduct risky sulfide-ore mining on the doorstep of America's most visited Wilderness, Minnesota's Boundary Waters. The prospecting permits were the first step toward a significant expansion of the current proposed mine which sits immediately next to lakes, rivers, and streams that flow directly into the Wilderness. The prospecting permits had been extended on May 1 without the BLM conducting legally required environmental review or consultation with the US Fish & Wildlife Service on impacts to endangered or threatened species. The legal challenge was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (lead organization in the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters), and The Wilderness Society.
"The BLM failed to follow the law. It was required to consider environmental impacts and endangered species impacts of risky copper mining in the headwaters of the Wilderness before extending Twin Metals prospecting permits, some of which are on lands that border the Boundary Waters. Instead, the BLM did nothing except rush to grant mining approvals. This has been a hallmark of the Trump Administration's reckless push to fast track risky sulfide-ore mining next to the Boundary Waters," said Tom Landwehr, Executive Director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. "This is not the first time the Trump Administration has cut corners in order to permit the mine of Ivanka Trump's landlord, but hopefully it's the last."
There are currently two other federal lawsuits challenging Trump Administration actions for Twin Metals, including one challenge to the legality of reinstating expired leases and one on the sufficiency of their subsequent renewal.
This is the second time in a week that state or federal agencies have gone back to review rules or actions related to sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters because of actions led by Northeastern Minnesotans Wilderness (NMW) and its Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Last week, Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources agreed to review Minnesota's mining rules as they relate to areas near the Wilderness.
“We are leading the effort on multiple fronts,” said Landwehr, “to make sure sulfide-ore copper mining never happens in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. With great partners like The Wilderness Society and the Center for Biological Diversity, the Campaign has the expertise and strategic pathways to end this threat to the iconic Wilderness. A special thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for representing NMW pro bono in this lawsuit.”
Boozhoo (Greetings) -
Our New Album "Ancestral Legacy" will be released on Friday November 27, 2020, Native American Heritage Day!
We're here to say our thoughts and feelings about the Boundary Waters. Being of Indigenous heritage, we're driven to protect the world's precious lands and waters from encroaching empires such as Twin Metals.
Mining has already proven to leave a devastating impact in our region of Northern Minnesota. It's time that all of us who live here, staunch the environmental bleeding, and support Save the Boundary Waters. Let us put an end to the damage and give our Mother Earth a chance to heal.
Our band will represent the Ojibwe Nation to speak out against any who would so much as threaten to disrupt or disrespect our traditions which Native Peoples have held on this continent for centuries.
These are our rights to hunt, fish, and gather on land we're sill fighting to protect for future generations.
We are proud to create music that speaks of and for Native Americans and the land upon which we live. We celebrate the honor, courage, and greatness of our ancestry.
Today we ask that you take time to listen to the songs being played in your own backyards. Would you want the peace and tranquility found there to be vanquished? Neither do we, which is why we must all band together to protect the Boundary Waters.
The Boundary Waters is America’s most popular wilderness so naturally, there are so many different people standing up to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide-ore copper mining.
Here are just a few of those people explaining why they love the Boundary Waters and think you should support Save the Boundary Waters on Give to the Max Day.
I didn’t grow up camping. Whatever compromises my Berkeley-based parents had made in summer activities, it did not involve immersion in nature. A few years into my move to Minnesota, my parents were surprised when I invited them on a canoe camping trip in the BWCA with my spouse. I was eager to explore this place that so many Minnesotans claimed as the crown jewel of the state, worthy of repeat trips, and exhaustive itineraries. We piled in our car and made our way up the Gunflint Trail to Hungry Jack Outfitters. Despite our trepidation, they outfitted us beautifully and instructed us to take an approachable route just a few lakes away.
While our first portages were clunky, with lots of yelling and confusion, once we settled into the land things started to change. Without our normal distractions, we were able to focus our attention on each other and on the simple tasks of the day. It was so special to see my parents transform into this new setting: my dad tackling the rain fly while my mom built up a strong fire. I appreciated seeing them in this new light and seeing how nature brought out my dad’s desire to sing over the bonfire, and my mom’s calm appreciation of a still sunset.
This personal transformation is one of my favorite parts of the BWCA. Since that trip, every year we bring new people up and we get to watch them open up and experience this new place for the first time. One of my favorite memories was this past summer when we took our friends Jack and Anne on their first trip. Not even three hours into the trip Jack exclaims, “this is the best day of my life.” It is a treat to both see my friends transform into new people under the night stars and stunning landscape and to deepen my relationships with them with this shared experience. Nothing says relationship building like navigating a canoe in windy weather!
I urge you to support the protection of the BWCA from dangerous sulfide-ore copper mining, so that we can continue to invite in new friends, family, and colleagues to experience this precious place. This land belongs to everyone, and deserves to be experienced and appreciated by both first-timers and BWCA veterans for generations to come.
The Boundary Waters has been a source of motivation to become more politically mobilized than ever before in 2020. Places like the BWCA deserve to be protected and advocated for.
That’s why I am asking you to help the Campaign by donating today. Every dollar counts in the fight to protect this incredible Wilderness.
I have been a volunteer with Save the Boundary Waters campaign for 6 years. Working alongside so many dedicated folks at the campaign has been inspirational over the years! I have co-lead the Chicago chapter of the campaign for about two years now. I love meeting so many fellow paddlers in the Chicagoland area, and educating one another on how to protect our public lands!
My name is Megan and I'm one of the Chicago ambassadors for the Campaign. My family has had a cabin in the Boundary Waters since the 1960's that I've been going to my entire life. Since the start of this crazy year, it has been a source of constancy in this ever changing, uncertain world we're currently living in. I've been able to escape to the BWCA a few times this year and it feels like one of the only places within reach, where all the noise fades away. I've been inspired by listening to the people who are so dedicated to protecting these lands and waters and it makes me hopeful for the future of all public lands. It has been my absolute pleasure volunteering and helping out where I can.
In uncertain times and with our communities craving connection, I've seen more and more people turn to the outdoors for solace this year. The BWCA continues to prove that it is a place for quiet contemplation, connection with nature, and community building. And in order to continue doing so, the BWCA needs our stewardship and support!
Mat and I have been going to the Boundary Waters every year since we’ve been together. As a good friend of ours once said, "The Boundary Waters is a true test of whether a couple can survive marriage." Well, after several trips together, I decided it would be the perfect place to ask Mat to marry me. When the time came for the wedding, it felt only right to ask our guests to make donations to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. We just celebrated our marriage on a mid-October trip and couldn't be happier!
We have entered into an agreement with the DNR on a process for how to move forward with review and possible revision of state mining rules. This is a first step in the right direction. The mining rules guide how sulfide-ore copper mines are sited, and we believe there should be no such mines in the BWCA watershed. Donate now to help us continue the fight to protect the Boundary Waters.
On November 18, lawyers for Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) signed an agreement called a Stipulation for Remand with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The stipulation agreement is a result of NMW’s lawsuit challenging the state’s non-ferrous mining rules filed pursuant to the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) on June 24, 2020. NMW alleges that the current mining rules - adopted 27 years ago - fail to protect the Boundary Waters. The current rules allow for sulfide-ore mining in the upstream half of the Rainy River Headwaters, next to and outside of the Boundary Waters. Polluted waters from sulfide-ore copper mining in the upstream half of the Rainy River Headwaters would flow directly into the Boundary Waters and also put at risk the downstream protected areas of the Quetico Provincial Park and Voyageurs National Park (see map, below).
This is the first-ever lawsuit brought under Section 10 of MERA (MS116B.10). The first step in a Section 10 MERA lawsuit provides that the plaintiff (NMW) has the burden of proving the existence of material evidence that the challenged state rules are inadequate to protect the state’s natural resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction. In other words, NMW had the burden of proving with material evidence that allowing sulfide-ore copper mining in the upstream half of the Rainy Rivers Headwaters fails to protect the Boundary Waters from pollution, impairment,or destruction. The Minnesota DNR and NMW have agreed that NMW has met this requirement of material evidence. In the stipulation agreement, the Minnesota DNR and NMW have agreed to a process to address the adequacy of the rules.
The process as provided in the stipulation agreement is as follows:
The DNR will provide a public comment period concerning the adequacy of the siting provisions of Minnesota’s nonferrous mining rules to protect the Boundary Waters and the Rainy River Headwaters as natural resources. The public comment period will likely be held in early 2021.
After reviewing the public comments, scientific evidence submitted with the comments, and any additional information available to the DNR, the DNR will issue an order and findings of fact by September 30, 2021 concerning the adequacy of the siting rule.
Any party to NMW’s lawsuit - and Antofagasta’s Twin Metals has intervened in the lawsuit and thus is a party - may challenge the DNR decision and request a contested case hearing, which is a trial before an administrative law judge. Therefore, we anticipate that there will be a contested case hearing on the adequacy of the nonferrous mining regulations to protect the Boundary Waters and the Rainy River Headwaters. If the administrative law judge finds that the siting section of the Minnesota nonferrous mining rules is inadequate to protect the Boundary Waters, the DNR will commence the formal rulemaking procedure to amend state regulations.
After final rulemaking, the matter will return to district court in Ramsey County to address any challenges by any party to the lawsuit.
The entire process for NMW’s MERA lawsuit will take several years. Success would mean that sulfide-ore mining would be prohibited in the entire Rainy River Headwaters, including and specifically the upstream half that is currently unprotected.
Help us raise $300,000 by midnight on Nov. 19! We have an incredible $150,000 match, courtesy of the Manitou Fund ($50,000), as well as a group of loyal supporters. Double your impact by making a Give to the Max Day gift!
Map of the Rainy River Headwaters watershed. The proposed Twin Metals mine is located nine miles southeast of Ely, in the watershed which flows directly into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park and Voyageurs National Park.
While we await some of the remaining results of the election and make sure every eligible vote is counted we can say Minnesota’s election results are a victory for the Boundary Waters. Congratulations to all of the Boundary Waters Champions who won their election. We look forward to working with the candidates who were elected this cycle to protect America’s most visited Wilderness for all generations to come.
Nearly 70% of Minnesotans favor permanently protecting the Boundary Waters. The proposed Twin Metals sulfide-ore copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters represents a threat to Minnesota’s environment, economy, and way of life. Minnesota voters clearly rejected the anti-Boundary Waters agenda of Donald Trump and Senate candidate Jason Lewis. The voters of Minnesota have sent a clear message: protect the Boundary Waters for now and forever.
For Senator Tina Smith, who was re-elected, a clear next step is to follow the lead of Minnesota's Representatives in the U.S. House by introducing a companion bill Rep. Betty McCollum’s Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (HR5598) in the U.S. Senate. This bi-partisan House legislation now has 47 co-sponsors and would provide permanent protection to the watershed of the Boundary Waters.
Make an impact by donating to Save the Boundary Waters now for Give to the Max Day. We must continue the fight to save this one-of-a-kind-Wilderness. Give today.
Look for more communications from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and Boundary Waters Action Fund regarding the remaining results of the election.
Last summer, I planned a somewhat last-minute Boundary Waters overnight canoe trip with my family, while we were living and working for several weeks in the Ely area. Permits to nearby spots were hard to come by (we had not planned ahead hey!), and so I picked what was available - South Moose River (entry point 8).
We rented a LARGE canoe to carry all 5+ of us - the Wenonah 4. I was about 6 months pregnant, and this would be the first canoe trip for our 6 and 3 year olds too. My cousin was along in addition to my husband and me, which was so necessary to help wrangle the kids and the stuff!
We rented the boat, some additional paddles and PFDs, and a Garmin Inreach device (in case of emergency) from Piragis Northwoods Company. I have my own gorgeous handmade Glorud paddle and Matt has a Bending Branches paddle. We have MTI Life Jackets for the whole family, and all our gear packs up nicely in our Granite Gear portage packs.
We had been staying at Lodge of Whispering Pines, on Big Lake, west of Ely via the Echo Trail. We drove a little farther along the Echo trail, took a left on a small road to come to our entry point. The river turned out to be a narrow, long meandering passage through beaver-dam created marshy pools. Five miles of that. Our very long canoe was extra work to steer through the zig-zagging pathway.
It seemed to work best like this: If I'm in the stern of the canoe, as we approach a twisty turn in the route, I call out for the bow paddler to paddle backward on whichever side I need. I then do AGGRESSIVE c-strokes on the opposite side, so the watercraft basically stops all forward movement and just rotates. Even this was not enough - sometimes we would gently crash into the humps of tall marsh grass.
We passed multiple super impressive beaver lodges and saw a few beavers quickly swimming out of sight. In one spot we had to climb out of the canoe in the middle of the marsh, precariously stand on waterlogged branches along an expansive beaver dam, and yank our canoe up and over the dam onto the higher water above. The beaver dams along this route are IMPRESSIVE. Spanning across quite a distance and holding back an immense amount of water. The critters must stay quite busy making and maintaining these and their lodges. The landscape looked a little different than our outfitter had recalled so I bet it changes year to year a bit as the beavers continue their engineering.
The kids did not seem to get bored or tired, they were such troopers. Cassidy loved nothing more than to drag his hands in the water alongside the canoe. Which then of course we had to try and keep him from sucking his thumb with pond-water or reed debris on his hands.
The route had two not-so-long portages. The canoe was ridiculously large as I said, and thus heavier than ideal. Matt carried the canoe, I carried a baby in my uterus - ok also the lighter of the portage packs and maybe some life jackets and paddles, my cousin Johanna carried the big pack and the big tent and did the doubling-back to pick up other things. We kept the kids on the trail between the first and last of our party, and they trudged right along on their own, pep-talking each other and just being generally adorable little kids hiking through the big woods. I was so proud of them.
We reached Big Moose lake and were happy to see more wide open water after the miles of skinny water trials through thick beaver ponds. The lake was quite shallow all the way across - you could see the bottom in many places. The first two campsites across the north edge of the lake looked occupied so we kept on. We found a retired campsite (the fire grate had been taken away but otherwise looked very recent!) but then just around the corner, a lovely big campsite with big rocks along the shore and stately tall trees all around.
We really should have stayed an extra night, for all the work it took to make it there! But we had a lovely afternoon and evening, and long next morning before packing up to paddle out. The kids loved playing with sticks and rocks. Cass found a stick he kept pretending to play like a recorder/clarinet which he called his "flute." Johanna set up a hammock. Evey and I went swimming in the evening, hooting and laughing as we floated around in the cool water.
The thing I remember most from the trip back out was stopping for lunch at the end of a portage to enjoy some Patagonia Provisions smoked salmon with our trail mix and other goodies. It was so good! Also, very smelly, and we were glad we'd eaten it last instead of carrying around fish-smelling wrappers for any longer.
Back at the car, we loaded up and drove into Ely to return our rental stuff and stopped for dinner at Insula. We were all so drained, not to mention a little dusty & dirty! By dusk we were back at our cozy cabin.
The route turned out to be more difficult and more work than I had intended for a first trip with little kids (and pregnant mom), but it worked out well and was a great time. With all the paddling and portaging, it was the way I'd usually want a Boundary Waters canoe trip to feel: a little bit challenging. We definitely should have stayed at least another night out there! I was delighted, but not surprised to see the kids enjoying themselves so much in the wilderness, just loving hiking and climbing on rocks and playing with water and among the tree trunks.
Highly recommend taking the littles in your life on a Boundary Waters canoe trip.
Moose River to Big Moose Lake, August 2019
Help us protect the Boundary Waters for families and future generations of paddlers. Donate today for Give to the Max Day and help us reach our goal!
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters celebrates October 21, this landmark date, as “Boundary Waters Day.” 42 years ago, on October 21, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act. This Act expanded the size of the Wilderness and added important protections. The 40th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Act was marked by Governor Mark Dayton, who issued a proclamation highlighting the passage in 2018.
The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited Wilderness, a canoe country Wilderness with over 1,100 lakes to paddle through and portage to. We must continue to protect this unique landscape for future generations. Take action now to protect the legacy of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness:
The Boundary Waters and Superior National Forest are Anishinaabe land. The Boundary Waters region and the Superior National Forest are within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory where Anishinaabe people (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa) have lived for generations.
The fight to protect these lands has been long and contentious, and continues today with the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining on lands in the headwaters of the Wilderness.
The first U.S. government act of protection for this canoe country was in 1902 when the U.S. Land Office withdrew 500,000 acres in the future Boundary Waters from settlement. Between 1905 and 1908 General C.C. Andrews, Minnesota Forestry Commissioner, persuaded the U.S. Land Office to withdraw 659,700 more acres in the future Boundary Waters from settlement.
President Theodore Roosevelt established the Superior National Forest in 1909 from previously withdrawn public domain lands while the Minnesota Legislature created a 1.2 million acre Superior Game Refuge, similar in area to the Superior National Forest and including most of the present Boundary Waters. Development of roads in the Superior National Forest led to concern about the development of the area, causing U.S. Agriculture Secretary W.M. Jardine to establish a 640,000 acres roadless wilderness area in a policy to “retain as much as possible of the land which has recreational opportunities of this nature as a wilderness.” Landmark federal and state legislation followed to further protect the area, including the Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act of 1930, the Little Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act of 1933, and the Thye-Blatnik Act of 1948.
In response to airplane landings and overflights that threatened the canoe country, in 1949, President Harry Truman signed an Executive Order which prohibited aircraft from flying over the area below 4,000 feet above sea level. These types of actions continued through the following decades leading up to the Wilderness Act of 1964.
On September 3, 1964, the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and is considered one of the most pivotal conservation efforts for America’s public lands. The Boundary Waters was included in the Wilderness Act as one of the original nine million acres of federal public lands in the NWPS. But the Wilderness Act allowed some incompatible activity to continue in the Boundary Waters such as use of motor boats, mining, and some logging.
These incompatible uses were addressed in the 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act, which was signed into law on October 21,1978 by President Jimmy Carter. The Boundary Waters Wilderness Act added 50,000 acres to the Boundary Waters to bring the Wilderness Area to 1,098,057 acres of protected land and waters in the Superior National Forest.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act:
Banned mineral development and mining
Banned snowmobile use within the Wilderness
Phased out motor boat usage and limited the size of motor boats, while leaving some lakes open to motor boat usage (22% of the water surface area).
Established a 220,000 acre buffer area around the three major entry points to the Wilderness where no mining would be allowed
Directed the Forest Service to maintain the high water quality of the Wilderness and the buffer area and to minimize to the maximum extent possible the environmental impacts associated with mineral development affecting the Boundary Waters and the federal buffer area.
Today, the fight to protect the Wilderness continues. While the Wilderness Area and the federal buffer area are protected from mining, the headwaters of the Wilderness is not. The Boundary Waters is threatened by proposals for toxic sulfide-ore copper mines in its headwaters, where all surface waters flow into the Wilderness. Pollution from this risky type of mining would degrade downstream waters and forests of the Boundary Waters, Voyageurs National Park, and Canada’s Quetico Park, and would irreversibly damage our beloved canoe country.
In January 2020, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum introduced a bill in Congress that would protect the Boundary Waters by withdrawing 234,328 acres of federal lands and minerals from the federal mining program. H.R. 5598, entitled “The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act,” would ban sulfide-ore copper mining of federal lands in the Rainy River Headwaters watershed, where waters drain into the Wilderness, Canada’s Quetico Park, and Voyageurs National Park. This bill passed out of the Natural Resource Committee in September and heads to the House floor for a vote by the entire U.S. House of Representatives.
TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT THE WILDERNESS:
The 40th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Act was marked by Governor Mark Dayton, who issued a proclamation shown above!
By now, you’ve heard about the scandal rocking the Pebble mining company that has proposed to mine copper and gold in the headwaters of Bristol Bay in Alaska. The proposed mine would devastate the most significant salmon fishery in the state, trample on indigeous rights, and leave a pollution legacy for generations. Sound familiar? The case has an amazing number of similarities to Antofagasta’s Twin Metals proposed mine.
Both operations - Pebble’s parent company of Northern Dynasty and Twin Metals’ owner, Antofagasta - are foreign companies. Northern Dynasty is based in Canada and Antofagasta is based in Chile. Both multi-nationals operate in the United States with wholly owned subsidiaries intended to shield the parent mining companies from liability (Pebble Limited Partnership and Twin Metals Minnesota LLC), and have hired local leaders to give the appearance of a home-grown project. Doubtless, this legal structure provides much protection for the true owners of the projects. Make no mistake, these foreign mining companies that own the proposed Pebble mine and Twin Metals mine have no allegiance to the communities they propose to work in - it is all about private profits. But the local leaders - really fronts for the mining companies - usually stand to gain substantially if or when a mine is permitted. Tom Collier, Pebble’s ex-CEO, for example, was to receive a bonus of $12.5M if the project got permitted.
Both operations have extremely questionable rental arrangements with key elected officials. In 2016, the patriarch of the family that controls Antofagasta made his first Washington, D.C. residential acquisition - a mansion in high-end Kalorama district in Washington, DC. Within days, Antofagasta’s owner rented the mansion (for below-market rates) to Ivanka and Jared Kushner (who still live there). With Pebble, the Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors rents an apartment from a staffer of Alaska Congressman Dan Sullivan. This coziness is beyond the pale, and anyone with any integrity would avoid it like the plague.
The worst part of the rental arrangement is the implication of access to key elected officials, and this is where some of the most egregious similarities are found. In both projects, there is demonstrable evidence that the companies have influence over key local elected officials, and a behind-the-scenes access to top officials in the Trump administration. The Pebble CEO asserted a strong connection to both Alaska Senators but also a strong connection to Alaska’s Governor who, he said, could get immediate access to the White House Chief of Staff anytime he wanted. This is a stark similarity to the relationship between Twin Metals, two Minnesota Congressmen, and top political appointees in the key departments - Interior and Agriculture, according to documents secured in Freedom of Information Act Requests. Minnesota U.S. Reps. Stauber and Emmer have both been vocal supporters of the Twin Metals project. Political appointees in these departments have directed agencies to reverse Obama-era Boundary Waters protections and prohibitions on sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters, and instead steamroll the proposed Twin Metals mine through the leasing and environmental review processes. Rep. Emmer is head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the US House of Representatives. Because of that position, he has extraordinary access to the top levels of the Trump administration. Emails we’ve seen show that these Congressmen successfully influenced federal agencies to make lease terms more favorable to Twin Metals, at their request!
Under the Trump administration, federal oversight agencies have issued narrow and surprisingly uninformed environmental reviews of the impact of the respective projects. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a very cursory Environmental Assessment on the renewal of Twin Metals federal mineral leases that failed to consider any environmental impacts. We are suing the BLM because of the wholly inadequate review, including the failure to consider the impact of sulfide-ore copper mining on the Boundary Waters. In the case of Pebble, the Army Corps of Engineers found the mine would not impact the irreplaceable salmon fishery of Bristol Bay. In both cases, the agencies reversed opposite findings issued under the Obama administration, decisions that were carefully and rigorously based on scientific review.
In the recently released secret recordings, Pebble’s ex-CEO Tom Collier (he resigned) asserted point blank that Pebble mine would grow immensely past it’s proposed footprint. In fact, he said it could operate for centuries. This, in spite of the fact that the proposal submitted to the government was for a 20 year operation. Collier testified in 2019 that there were no plans to expand, even though that would leave 90% of the known deposit in the ground. That is almost identical to the situation at Twin Metals. The mine plan of operations Twin Metals submitted to state and federal agencies calls for a 25-year mining operation extracting 182 million tons of ore. In a 2018 report to its shareholders, Antofagasta provided information that shows that the mine plan Twin Metals submitted to federal and state agencies represented just 7.3% of the total tonnage it controlled; if it developed all of its assets, then the full project could be as much as 13.7 times larger than the filed mine plan. A mine fully developed would require toxic tailings waste storage that could cover up to 18.4 square miles of surface lands, all located very close to the shores of Birch Lake and immediately upstream of the fragile Boundary Waters. As Collier was quoted as saying, “Once you have something like this in production, why would you want to stop?”
A majority of citizens of both states opposed the respective projects. In Alaska, a 2019 poll showed 54% of residents opposed the project. In Minnesota, various polls over the years have shown between 62 to 70% opposition among Minnesota voters, including a 2020 StarTribune poll that showed 62% opposition. A poll from July 2020 showed that 68% of Minnesota voters support a permanent ban on copper mining next to the Boundary Waters.
It most surely appears that Twin Metals is using Pebble Mining’s playbook. One can only infer the shady manipulations between the company and the federal government are intended to conceal the real scope of the project and gloss over its guaranteed environmental destruction. With a strong majority of citizens opposed to this project, and knowing how these companies are operating, we have to wonder why our more honest elected officials haven’t yet killed this project. Let’s make sure they know that we won’t let Twin Metals pull a Pebble Mining fast one on us.
Today we celebrate Bruce Vento, who was a tireless advocate for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. He was born 80 years ago today.
Bruce Vento served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 until his death in 2000, representing Minnesota's 4th congressional district. Vento worked hard to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and many other public lands across the country. His successor Rep. Betty McCollum continues to be a Champion for the Boundary Waters today.
Read the tribute below that was given by National Campaign Chair Becky Rom at an event honoring Bruce’s years of public service shortly before he died.
BRUCE VENTO TRIBUTE
September 9, 2000 By Becky Rom
We gather tonight to say thank you to Congressman Bruce Vento and to celebrate his career as a champion of our cause. When Mr. Vento steps down this coming January, he will have served in Congress for 24 years.For every one of those years, Bruce Vento has held a pivotal position on the House Resources Committee. For over ten years, Bruce Vento chaired that Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.As Subcommittee Chair, his inspired leadership resulted in the protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of America's lands and the enactment of over 300 laws protecting and preserving our natural environment.
Congressman Vento has been a tireless advocate for wilderness protection. Under his guidance, Congress protected the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, and new parks and wilderness stretching from Alaska to Nevada to the American Samoa. Congressman Vento donned the mantle of protector of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park when he stepped into the halls of Congress in 1977 and he wears it today. Bruce was a key player in the passage of the 1978 Boundary Waters Wilderness Act, known as the Burton-Vento bill, and during the past 6 years he has been an unparallelled and tireless defender during the bitter and divisive attacks on the integrity of the canoe country. During this last fight, motorboat advocates argued that there were three portages that were too difficult to traverse when pulling a motorboat mounted on portage wheels and that they needed trucks to haul the boats. Congressman Helen Chenoweth scheduled a field hearing, to be held on one of these portages. Congressman Vento and I were both there. The portage actually is one of the gentler portages in the wilderness and not particularly long; travelers with a canoe and packs-or a 14foot fishing boat, for that matter- would cross portages like this one without giving it a second thought. But the motorboat advocates were determined to prove that it was impossible to traverse this portage pushing a boat on portage wheels. To demonstrate this, they showed up with a large and heavy motorboat, loaded down with coolers and all sorts of miscellaneous fishing gear - and, to top it off, with three outboard motors attached. Cocky and grinning, they were convinced that they were about to show that Bruce Vento could not portage a boat across the portage. Bruce walked to the back of the boat- resting in the water- and, with determination and will-power, lifted that boat out of the water, and with Helen Chenoweth walking at the bow, pushed that heavy monster of a boat across the portage.
Congressman Vento fought relentlessly for the highest standards of stewardship at all four federal land management agencies - the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. He led his colleagues on the Subcommittee to support ever-stronger wilderness bills while skillfully deflecting countless proposals for low-quality parks or commercialization of natural areas. He supported a broadening of the National Park Service mission to include social, industrial, and labor history, not just the "great men and the great battles." His bipartisan work eventually resolved a decades old dispute over Park Service concessionaires.
Congressman Vento is famous for mastering the details of every land use law in existence. Shortly after the Republicans took control of the House and Congressman Jim Hansen became Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, an obscure public lands issue arose during a hearing. Jim Hansen did not know the law; he turned to his counsel, who, with a shrug of shoulders, indicated that he didn't know it either. They whispered to each other for a moment, and then Jim Hansen turned, very reluctantly, toward Bruce Vento and said that perhaps the gentleman from Minnesota "could help us out." Well, Congressman Vento could, and he was off and running, talking nonstop for 15 minutes or so, completely in command of the subject.
Congressman Vento stood firm against the "property rights" and "takings" movements of the early 1990's. Not just a public lands person, he led efforts in the House in the 1970's to strengthen the Clean Air Act to regulate more than just soot, as it originally did.
He did all of this, protection of public lands and the environment, for no political gain, but from his deep and personal love of nature.
This past January Congressman Vento was diagnosed with a virulent strain of cancer. He is leaving Congress to devote his energies to overcoming this new and daunting challenge and for that reason also he is unable to join us this evening. Knowing full well of his courage and tenacity, we know that he will overcome this challenge as he has so many others.
Congressman Vento's accomplishments are great, but I want to tell you something about the man behind these statistics. Bruce was born on the East Side of the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, the second of 8 children. His four grandparents immigrated from the "old country." Some people ask, where did Bruce, a city boy, get his love of nature? Bruce tells this story in answer to the question. His love of nature grew out of his relationship with his Italian grandfather, who used to take Bruce mushroom picking. His grandfather knew all the different types of mushrooms that grew in the woods of Minnesota. After Bruce and his grandfather returned from mushroom picking, Bruce's Italian grandmother would cook the mushrooms. First she would feed some to the family cat, and then to Bruce's grandfather. If they both lived, she would then feed the mushrooms to the rest of the family. The East Side of St. Paul, where Bruce continues to live, is home to blue collar workers - and they have no better friend than Congressman Vento. After working in factories, he taught science in the public schools for ten years, a clear manifestation of his love for the natural world. Drawing on these roots, Bruce Vento has focused on improving the status of the ordinary working person in health, housing, and education. His vision was that everyone could get an education that would allow him to have a decent job, an affordable house, enough security to have the time to enjoy the natural wonders, and an education that included an understanding and appreciation of nature. Because of Congressman Vento, many more Americans can enjoy all of these, but most especially the natural world.
Please join me in expressing our gratitude to Bruce Vento, our champion of parks and defender of wilderness.
On September 30, 2020, in Duluth MN, President Trump announced a new Executive Order to accelerate mine permitting. This could steamroll the process of putting a sulfide-ore copper mine next the Boundary Waters.
This new Executive Order signals a clear and present danger. The Trump admininstration continues its rush to weaken the review and permitting process and bypass critical input from the public.
President Trump’s Executive Order declares it a national emergency that the United States does not have more mines, smelters, and refineries, and authorizes the use of taxpayer dollars in the form of grants, loans, and loan guarantees for mining companies to build more mining infrastructure. The President’s rationale is that the United States views it as a threat that America’s domestic mineral supply chain depends on foreign countries.
In May 2019 federal agencies gave away the nation’s minerals in the Superior National Forest - at the edge of the Boundary Waters - to a foreign mining conglomerate, Antofagasta, a company that has no fidelity or loyalty to the United States, and stripped out longstanding lease provisions that required the mining company to return to the United States the same quantity of copper and nickel it shipped out of the country for processing. Antofagasta has long term contracts with mineral processors located in China; all of its minerals are shipped overseas for this purpose.
The Executive Order does not return to the American people the copper and nickel it gave away to Antofagasta. The Executive Order does not require Antofagasta to process any minerals from mines in the Superior National Forest in the United States.
Also, although the Executive Order directs federal departments and agencies to accelerate the issuance of permits and completion of mining projects, it does not give federal agencies any new tools nor does it immunize them from existing laws. Federal environmental review of a Twin Metals mine plan commenced in mid-summer and, according to the federal agencies, will continue until September 2022. Only after the completion of environmental review can mine permitting be processed. Therefore, it does not appear that this Executive Order will have any short term impact on a proposed Twin Metals mine. A state environmental review and permitting process is not affected by this Executive Order.
The Executive Order does signal that this administration’s highest priority for America’s public lands is mining, even those public lands that form the headwaters of the Boundary Waters, a pristine lakeland wilderness that is extensively crisscrossed with lakes, rivers, and wetlands and a place where clean water is an imperative for the survival of the ecosystem.