Monday, December 23, 2019
Posted by
Becky Rom and Tom Landwehr

December Campaign Update

December has been a tumultuous month for the fight to protect the Boundary Waters from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining in its watershed. As the lead organization in this fight, the Campaign has been working in overdrive – below is an update on everything that has been happening in the recent weeks. 

Good News: We Had Our Day in Court

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (leader of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters) and nine Minnesota outdoor recreation businesses challenged the unlawful reinstatement of federal mineral leases by the Trump administration by filing a lawsuit in federal court in June 2018. Two additional lawsuits were subsequently filed by four conservation groups. After the three lawsuits were consolidated into a single case, Twin Metals intervened on the side of the Trump administration. On Friday, December 20, 2019, we had our day in court. NMW’s pro bono lawyers at Morrison & Foerster presented the case for NMW, nine businesses, and four conservation groups before US District Court Judge Trevor McFadden. 

National Chair Becky Rom and Matt Norton, Policy and Science Director for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, and many of our supporters and partners attended the oral arguments. We hope Judge McFadden will render his decision soon and we are optimistic that he will rule that the Trump administration unlawfully reinstated Twin Metals federal mineral leases. The fate of the Boundary Waters and the future of the American people, especially those fortunate enough to live in northern Minnesota, hang in the balance. Read about the hearing here:  http://www.startribune.com/twin-metals-lease-challenge-is-argued-before-judge-in-washington-dc/566386612/

Canada to Get Answers

Eleven months ago, the government of Canada challenged the US Government to explain how it would address the water pollution from a Twin Metals mine that would degrade the waters of Canada, and in particular in Quetico Park. Until now, Canada received no response. Congresswoman Betty McCollum authored a provision in the federal spending bill, signed into law on December 20, that requires the State Department to respond. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters worked with Congresswoman McCollum to ensure that this provision was passed.

  • This language can be found on page 31 of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Report (H.R. 2740), and as follows:

Report Rainy River Drainage Basin.—The Committee supports the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and the goal of limiting pollution of boundary waters. The Committee is concerned that decisions made by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Interior to approve mineral leases in the Superior National Forest will result in an operational sulfide-ore copper mine that risks polluting the waters within the Rainy River Drainage Basin flowing into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Ontario, Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department of State to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 60 days of enactment of this Act detailing: the characteristics of the Boundary Waters-Quetico ecosystem and the hydrology of the Rainy River Drainage Basin and its impact on Canada; U.S. Government plans to monitor and mitigate the risk of acid mine drainage originating in the Superior National Forest polluting Canadian waters; and United States efforts to inform the Government of Canada on the potential for cross-boundary pollution resulting from sulfide-ore copper mining in the Superior National Forest.

  • Article IV of The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, a treaty between the United States and Canada, states: “It is further agreed that the waters herein defined as boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.”

  • McCollum’s letter to Secretary Pompeo can be found here and Prime Minister Trudeau letter here.

Challenging News

Mine Plan of Operation Filed with State of Minnesota and Federal Government

On Wednesday, December 18, Twin Metals submitted a mine plan design for a very large and dangerous mine just miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and in the headwaters of one of the most pristine ecosystems in the nation, immediately upstream of protected areas of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Quetico Park, and Voyageurs National Park. Twin Metals has requested that the BLM and the State of Minnesota commence a review and permitting process for this mine. 

We are ready. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has amassed an impressive body of science that shows indisputably that this mine will permanently damage the Wilderness, the Superior National Forest, and other downstream areas and cause irreparable harm to local people and businesses, wildlife and the forested landscape, and the unbelievably clean waters of the area. We stand prepared with a team of experts to review the mine plan and to challenge every aspect and stage of the plan. 

Political Intervention of the Trump Administration

The Trump administration has worked overtime to jam through toxic mining where none should be allowed by ignoring legal requirements, suppressing science, and overturning the will of the American people. It did this again last week by killing a provision in the federal spending bill that would have required the completion of a critically important Superior National Forest mineral withdrawal study. This study was launched by the US Forest Service after it concluded that copper mining posed an unacceptable risk of harm to the Boundary Waters, and was examining the most important questions about locating a sulfide-ore copper mine in the watershed of the Boundary Waters and at the headwaters of one of the most pristine ecosystems in the nation.

In September 2018, the Trump administration abruptly canceled the nearly completed study. At the end of a tumultuous weekend of negotiations with Congress on the federal spending bill, the Trump administration refused to agree to funding for the entire federal government until this provision was removed. Why is the Trump administration afraid of the science, economics, and social analysis, unless the study proves that the watershed of the Boundary Waters is the wrong place for a toxic copper mine. To understand why the Trump administration’s position is wrong for our nation and its people, read this editorial by northern Minnesota’s Timberjay:  http://timberjay.com/stories/environmental-review,15817?

Read also this letter from Alex Falconer, Government Affairs Director for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters featured in the Star Tribune:

http://www.startribune.com/readers-write-report-on-the-fbi-the-federal-spending-bill-gun-legislation-homelessness/566390152/

Clearly, there is a lot going on. Pleases consider rushing a year-end gift to help support the Campaign, which leads this critical effort. With your support, we are seeing and will continue to see results from the Campaign’s years of hard work. Thank you.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters leads a national coalition of businesses, conservation groups, and youth groups to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining in the Rainy River Basin, the headwaters of the Boundary Waters, Quetico Park, and Voyageurs National Park.