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Campaign update on the copper-nickel mining near BWCA

Monday, April 22, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

An update on the proposed sulfide-ore copper nickel mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 

Proposed mine site. Photo: Brad Carlson

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has been busy meeting with agency and elected officials to track the progress of the federal leases being renewed for mining giant Antofagasta on the edge of the Wilderness.  Here's what we know:

1. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has concluded the public input process of the cursory Environmental Assessment (EA) on the lease renewal.  It is now reviewing comments. We don't know its timeline for completion. The Forest Service has taken a very limited role in these proceedings, even though it has the authority to lead all environmental review processes for leasing.

2. The BLM has said it will renew two federal leases examined in the EA. These leases were terminated in 2016, unlawfully reinstated in 2018 and are held by Twin Metals, the Minnesota shell entity for Antofagasta. More than 94,000 comments were submitted in opposition to lease renewal and reams of scientific reports, yet it is apparent that the BLM will fast-track this without regard to the scores of thousands of comments it has received in opposition, or the facts and science submitted to the BLM. The EA failed to consider any of the studies and reports that document the risk of harm to the Boundary Waters, the mammals, birds, and fish of the Wilderness, the impacts to clean water and clean air, and the loss of wilderness character of the Boundary Waters.

3. Once the federal leases are renewed, Antofagasta may seek to submit a "Mine Plan of Operations". This is a high-level description of the mine project - the location of facilities, the proposal for handling waste, the plan for "reclaiming" disturbed lands (which really are never restored), and similar elements. There is some question about whether a mine plan can actually be submitted because of legal challenges to the adequacy of federal environmental review and challenges to any issued federal mineral leases.

Antofagasta had previously said it would submit its mine plan in 2019, so we are monitoring developments and activity on the ground.  Clearly, the mining company and the Trump administration are doing everything they can to force this project to fruition as soon as they can.  We are doing our best to compel them to follow the law, and to find as the previous administration did, that it is simply unacceptable to site a sulfide-ore copper mine adjacent the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The Campaign returns to Washington, D.C.

Monday, April 15, 2019
Posted by
Tom Landwehr

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters was back in Washington, D.C., last week meeting with partners. Learn more about our latest trip. 

The federal government is currently working on renewing leases that had been terminated in 2016.  In order to avoid a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement, the administration in 2017 flaunted law and process by first "reinstating" the leases that had previously expired. By "reinstating" the leases, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) declared that the leases had not expired, so Twin Metals, owned by Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, could apply to "renew" the leases and get a multi-year extension. Why go through these contortions and become the subject of litigation? (Yes, we are suing!) Why not just issue new leases? The reason is simple: a new lease would require a full environmental review and would require concurrence of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Antofagasta and the mining friends in the Administration knew that the project could never be found to be harmless, hence, a reinstatement.

On our D.C. trips, we are meeting with partners to demand more transparency in this process, and to ensure that the best science is used in decision-making. We have strong allies on our side, and our concerns are being heard. For example, Congressional oversight committees provide funds and guide policy at the federal agencies. In at least 7 of these oversight committees in the last 2 months, where leadership from BLM and USFS have appeared, Congressional representatives have raised serious questions about the lease renewal process. We are especially thankful to Representatives Betty McCollum, Raul Grijalva, and Alan Lowenthal for their diligence and doggedness in getting the agencies to follow the law.

Below is an oversight hearing (House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands) we attended where USFS Chief Vickie Christensen (left, back to camera) and BLM Deputy Director Brian Steed were questioned.

Our work with Congress and national partners is critical to preventing the renewal of these leases, or ensuring they follow a rigorous environmental review process if they can't be stopped. It is inconceivable the federal government could find that this proposed mine would be compatible next to America’s most-visited Wilderness. A broad coalition of partners - local, state, and national - is essential to make sure the voice of Minnesota and America is heard.

Help us hold this administration’s feet to the fire. Donate today to protect the Boundary Waters.

Conserve With Us - Businesses working together for Earth Month!

Friday, April 5, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Thanks to Conserve With Us and all business partners for making it easy for your customers to take action to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness during the month of April. We greatly appreciate your continued support to ensure permanent protection for the Boundary Waters.

We thank the 14 businesses who are helping take action with us this month!

Check out the 300+ member Boundary Waters Business Coalition!

“I would never go to the Boundary Waters without…”

Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Gear is an essential part of planning a Boundary Waters trip. There’s a lot to consider when packing your portage packs. What will the weather be like? Is this sleeping bag warm enough? Is my portage pack too heavy? We asked a few members of our staff what things they would never go to the Boundary Waters without:

“I've got a lot to say about my cast iron pan. What's my word count limit?!”
- Alex, Public Affairs and Legislative Director

“A cribbage board and deck of cards are an essential part of any Boundary Waters trip. Whether it's a rainy day inside the tent or a late night of laughs in the Wilderness, there's a cribbage match from every Boundary Waters trip I've taken that's made each one even more memorable.”
- Lauren, Communications Director

“It's a significant list, but the bare minimum begins with a Silva Ranger compass and strike-anywhere matches in a water-tight container.  Add to that wool base layer, insulation layers and a waterproof shell.”
Matt, Policy Director

“The map(s) for the route I plan to do plus adjoining maps because I'll likely go there instead and 10% of the trip calorie budget in Snickers candy bars. “
- Lisa, Science and Policy Associate

“Helinox ground chair! No more logs or rocks to sit on - as the old guys like to say: ‘we don't go to the woods to rough it, we go to smooth it. Things are rough enough in the cities!’"
- Tom, Executive Director

“Some personal fave things I don't like to go without: favorite snack of pineapple rings I partially dehydrate at home (they get so sticky and delicious!), a sketch book and pen in a plastic baggie, a roomy hammock, and my JetBoil. Also Salted Nut Rolls - perfect cure for afternoon hangry.”
- Sam, Deputy Campaign Manager

“My wife and I once brought playing cards only to realize we had forgotten the rules for almost all the card games we thought we remembered how to play. We clearly had become overly reliant on the internet to refresh our memories. Now we always bring a little sheet with various card game rules.”
- Carter, Development Officer

“Coffee and my canoe chair, because I like sitting on a rock and enjoying the sunrise with a warm beverage in hand before everyone wakes up.”
- Megan, Communications Specialist

“A backpack full of old and comfy band t-shirts, some scary podcasts downloaded onto my phone to ensure I won’t sleep, and a full privacy curtain.”
- Nicole, Administrative Coordinator

"Camp shoes. Basic comfort, but it's a great feeling when you stick your sweaty feet in fresh shoes."
- Ingrid, Development Manager

Welcome to our new Executive Director - Tom Landwehr!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
The Campaign is excited to announce former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr as the new Executive Director for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

Tom served as DNR Commissioner for the past eight years under Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. Together with Governor Dayton, Tom helped make it clear that the edge of the Boundary Waters is no place for this dangerous type of mining.

Read more from Tom:

I am extremely excited to be leading this amazing team of people who are passionate about protecting the Boundary Waters!  I have spent my 37 years of professional activity conserving wild places in Minnesota, and the BWCAW is the most special of all.

As a pre-schooler, I spent many days in the bow of a wood and canvas canoe. My dad was a canoe racer in the Aquatennial Canoe Derby - a 10 day trip from Bemidji to Minneapolis - and I was his bow ballast as he trained on the St. Croix River.  In high school, I worked near Grand Marais and got my first exposure to the wilderness. In subsequent years, my classmates and I would hitchhike from the cities to Grand Marais, rent a canoe from Gunflint Outfitters, and have Charlie - the resident expert - haul us and our gear to our put-in place off the trail. We developed some good stories and a strong affection for the Boundary Waters in those days, and my passion for the area continues. My brother Jim subsequently wrote a book entitled “Dirty Shirt” that describes how a group of city boys learned to survive and thrive in the wilderness.

The trips catalyzed my love of the outdoors and led me to a college degree in Wildlife Management.  A high point in that period was meeting Sigurd Olson at a campus presentation and having him autograph a copy of “The Lonely Land”. His passion was contagious, and further fueled my desire to spend time in the wilderness.  Highlights included 2-10 day trips through the BWCAW and the Quetico.

Over the past 2 decades, I have had great joy in bringing my two children - and some of their cousins and friends - on trips to favored lakes.  It has been a joy watching them become proficient in the outdoors, and to know they’ll one day be passing the torch to their children. I have boatloads of great pictures from these trips, including many that prove I can actually catch fish!

These are memories I cherish, and are memories many Minnesotans can relate to, and all Minnesotans deserve.  Because the wilderness is so accessible, and because it seems protected, I think we often take it for granted.  Clearly, we cannot make that assumption. Sulfide-ore copper nickel mining on the edge of the BWCAW (near one of my favorite entry points!) threatens the water and wilderness character over a vast expanse.  We can’t let that happen.

Seventy percent of Minnesotans believe mining adjacent the wilderness is unacceptable.  It is our mission to give a strong and unwavering voice to that majority. I look forward to being part of that team!

Nearly 100,000 citizens submit comments opposing mining lease renewals near BWCA

Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Despite a shortened public comment period, technical glitches, and a month-long government shutdown, nearly 100,000 comments opposing Twin Metals lease renewals were submitted to the Department of Interior.  While the renewal process unlawfully engineered by the Department of the Interior all but guarantees Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta’s Twin Metals Project will continue to be fast-tracked through the environmental review process, the public outcry remains loud. The leases for dangerous mining near America’s most popular Wilderness were previously terminated before being resurrected by the Trump Administration.

In total 94,387 citizens submitted comments opposing the lease renewals.

“The American people are outraged by this project and this process,” said Jon Nelson of Duluth,  co-chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “The Boundary Waters are a priceless natural wonder and economic engine for Northeastern Minnesota, and the public will not stand by silently while the current administration rushes forward to put irreplaceable Wilderness at risk.”

Over the last two years the Department of the Interior has worked hand-in-hand with Antofagasta and the mining industry to push through approvals for sulfide-ore mineral leases on the doorstep of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The nearly 100,000 comments were the result of a public awareness push by a coalition of organizations including the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, National Wildlife Federation, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters,  The Wilderness Society, and others.

During previous public comment periods related to this project large numbers of Americans also spoke out in favor of protecting the Wilderness.

Saving the Boundary Waters with Colton Smith

Monday, February 4, 2019
Posted by
Colton Smith

America’s most visited wilderness area is under threat. Here’s why it matters.

Colton Smith hosts the Emmy Award winning show “Rock The Park” on ABC, an educational show designed to educate and inform the public on America’s national parks and public lands. 

Over the last five years I’ve traveled to and through virtually every nook and cranny of this country, exploring our treasured national parks, monuments and forests. I host a television show on ABC meant to educate others on just how special the public lands we own and hold truly are. Hiking, paddling and climbing across the country, I’ve found that interwoven into every beautiful vista are the stories of people who call it home.  Now often the coexistence of humans and nature is harmonious, then there are instances where it’s a downright ugly battle. What I’ve ultimately learned is that just as our landscapes and cultures are incredibly diverse, so too, are the issues our environment faces. In order to understand them it takes the just pursuit of perspectives that differ from my own. Having been given a box seat to view and learn about the gamut of man vs nature battles currently ensuing, I’ve always made sure to seek that perspective.

Let me tell you we’re in a unique period of time, the shear number of battles are staggering. Frankly, I’ve found it difficult to keep up. Then I took notice of an issue that brought me to a halt. Ironically I didn’t have to travel far at all to find it; it was right in my own backyard. I’ve logged over 200,000 thousand adventurous miles throughout this country and it was the fight for the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota that stopped me in my tracks. This place is dear to my heart, it was there that I camped for the first time and learned the power of solitude wilderness could provide. Right now a foreign mining company has focused in on the northern Minnesota watershed and this administration has given them the greenlight. If it proceeds, the consequences for the region as a whole could be disastrous. I knew I had to force myself to try and find the other perspective. So I went to Washington to search for it. I sought to listen without bias and an open mind. I did just that. Yet, the more I learned the more troubled I became. I left the capitol with my knowledge solidified and a conclusion of great confidence. If unimpeded, a pristine landscape will be destroyed; a precious natural resource tarnished and generations of livelihoods jeopardized. The precedent created will extend far beyond the borders of the Boundary Waters, giving a terrifying glimpse of what our beloved wild spaces across the country face in the future.  What’s occurring in Northern Minnesota is a level of blatant negligence which till now, I had yet to witness and we need to take notice.

If you’re not familiar with The Boundary Waters, here’s what you need to know. The area entails 1.1 million acres of interconnected waterways located in the northern third of the Superior National forest. It’s nearly 2,000 pristine lakes made it one of the first wilderness areas to be stringently protected under The Wilderness Act and sees around 250,000 visitors a year, making it the most visited wilderness area in the country.  This is water so pure I’m more than comfortable paddling into the lake’s center and guzzling it down. The proposed sulfide-ore copper mining operation wouldn’t just create the risk of all that untainted water being destroyed, it would virtually guarantee it. Even compared to the destructive mining industry as a whole, sulfide-ore copper mining takes the cake when it comes to environmental risks. A 2012 Earthworks study found that of the fourteen sulfide-ore copper mines representing 89% of U.S copper production, 100% of the mines had experienced pipeline spills or other accidental releases. In addition, 92% (13/14) had experienced water collection and treatment failures resulting in significant effects on water quality. That’s a huge problem when your mine is sitting right at the edge of a massive series of interconnected waterways. Figuring out that mining is going to harm the nearby ecosystem though is hardly an epiphany. It takes a few minutes of research to realize a spill can and will happen. The Boundary Waters is hardly the only ecosystem this administration has put in it’s crosshairs. I don’t just worry about the environment though and that’s what makes this issue different. This is equally a fight for the people of northern Minnesota and future generations to come.

When I’m on the road, our stays are quick and the amount of time required to fully investigate the issues is often hard to come by. So I’ve learned to defer to the experts. A practice this administration seems determined to forgo. Environmental issues seem to boil down to nature’s preservation vs. economic growth. That shouldn’t be overlooked. In that growth can be the requirement of fathers and mothers working in order to provide for their families. I understand and I care deeply about that. So that’s where I looked first. What’s at stake for the communities that call this place home? A 2018 independent study by prominent Harvard economists stated that leaving the Boundary Waters economy untouched would result in continued growth, greater long-term gain for the region both in employment and income compared to if mining were to take place. If you’re into numbers, we’re talking 1,500-4,600 more jobs and anywhere from 100 million to 900 million more in income. This study, like numerous others conducted, is incredibly thorough but it’s conclusion is simple and understandable. Mining creates a boom and bust economy. The mining will boom and jobs will be created. The mine will eventually die and not only will those jobs go with it leaving the local economy worse off than before. In the Boundary Waters these consequences will be amplified. When you’re home to the most visited wilderness area in the country, you’re also home to a growing eco-tourism industry. Once that water is tainted, so is the tourism industry. I drove through Moab, Utah recently and saw it as a fitting example. Moab today is known to many as the outdoor recreational capital of the world. However, in the 1950’s it was known as the “Uranium Capital of the World.” The mines of Moab boomed and then, yep, they busted. That’s when tourism began to take off along with the economy. Moab though is dry and unfortunately that scenario is impossible in the Boundary Waters. Once the mine is activated, the pristine waters that generate the ecotourism economy will be tainted and when dealing with water, there’s no way to bury the evidence. That’s all coming from the experts, but I have a pair of eyes too.

The majority of those 200,000 miles I’ve logged have taken me through small towns and rural America. I’ve absorbed the scenes along the way and noticed common threads as I’ve rolled along. I’ve driven through so many mining towns I’ve lost count. I can count on one hand how many of those towns appear to still be active and of those, never once have I seen signs of enduring prosperity.

It’s a fact that living in rural America is becoming increasingly challenging. Jobs are increasingly moving to urban areas and have been for some time.  There’s no way around it. I understand how that can make the prospect of bringing in a mining operation even more appealing. But I view this as a classic case of:  would you rather have someone catch your fish for a month or learn to fish and feed yourself for a lifetime? The quid pro quo with the first option, after they catch your fish, they’ll destroy the water and even if you wanted you’re not becoming an angler anytime soon. It’s easy to study an issue such as this and feel as if maybe they know something you don’t. Let me tell you, each and every interaction I experienced in Washington, put that notion to bed. The government is gambling. They’re going all in on a foreign mining company and using the future of the next generations as collateral.

The group I accompanied to the capitol is named “Kid’s for the Boundary Waters” and boy are they inspiring. Forty teenagers from across the country and even one young man from Peru. He, too, didn’t need more than the eye test to understand the harm potentially taking place in the Boundary Waters. His native town sat on the outskirts of one of Peru’s incredible national parks. As he grew up he watched mining take over his community. His friends and neighbors became sick; the landscape he loved was reduced to smoke and soot. His story was one of many I found tugged on my heart strings. Every teenager had a testimony showing how deeply they cared for the wilderness and how impactful it had been on their life. One girl lost her mother and uncle in a plane crash on their way to Canada. Miraculously she and her sister survived, but she sustained severe burns that covered her body. Her recovery took months. In the midst of her grief she found peace and strength by attending a camp near the outskirts on the Boundary Waters.  Her strength and the strength of the others who shared their stories, left me in awe. It was beyond powerful. As I listened and watched the conversation unfold, I felt this startling sense of backwards irony come over me. I listened to a group of teenagers argue for foresight and request that fact and science preside over any decisions made. Meanwhile a distinguished group of men and women in positions of power attempted to justify the route of instant gratification and worry about the consequences later. Please inform me on scenarios where that has panned out.

After hearing her testimony and a dozen more, one senior official said, “Thank you for sharing. We brought a bunch of cookies for you.” Those were the words of David Bernhardt, a former big oil lobbyist who after looming ethics violations kicked out his predecessor, heads into the new year as the Acting Secretary of the Interior. I was shocked, yet sadly, not surprised.  A common thread had been established. Those pushing the mining proposition have made it clear. Foresight has no place in their motives. If future generations suffer the consequences of their actions, they won’t be around to care. There’s another facet to this when it comes to impacting future generations and this one extends far beyond the borders of the Boundary Waters. The Boundary Waters holds around 22% of the freshwater found in our entire national forest system. We’re not short on copper and it can be found elsewhere. As much as this administration attempts to deny climate change, it’s impacts are impossible to overlook. Every day we need water and our worlds once abundant supply is dwindling.

Maybe this is a generational gap, I’m really not sure, but dealing with our countries water supply are issues my generation is beginning to be faced with. As I write this I’m driving through the heart of central California, an area responsible for a large portion of the agriculture consumed in our country. Everywhere I look I see posters placed by farmers, pleading for water.  Their problem is our problem.  If I had a red flag I’d wave it till my arms tired: a huge slice of our most precious natural resource is being rendered unusable! That knowledge alone should produce enough rational to halt the mining operation.  I’m writing this because it hasn’t. At this point, you may be wondering how could the federal government move forward? They’re more than aware of everything I’ve stated and due to how ludicrous the notion of mining near this watershed has be proven to be, they’ve been left with essentially one option. If they want to get away with it, they’ll have to do it in broad daylight and they’ll have to negligently suppress science and reason in the process. That’s exactly what they’re doing.

These mining risks have been known for quite some time and the alarm bells have rung for years. In fact, in 2016 the National Forest Service conducted a study to determine the environmental risks mining posed to the area. They concluded that mining would be downright unacceptable and cited the irreparable harm it would cause to the wilderness. In addition, there was a comment period designed for the public to weigh in.  Over 181,000 citizens voiced their opinions. 98% voiced opposition to the prospect of mining. Science and the people had spoken. To further ensure the protection of the Boundary Waters and its natural resources, an additional step had to take place. A two-year environmental assessment study would determine appropriate measures to protect the wilderness, potentially placing a twenty-year ban on mining in the area. The situation was decently transparent. The first study showed no mining can safely take place; the second would state for how long. It appeared simple.  However, those such as Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum were still not satisfied. She, like many others, sought confirmation that the forest service and department of agriculture would simply keep their word and not interfere with the environmental assessment. In a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Perdue, McCollum received confirmation in a very candid way. Perdue stated, “ I’m not smart enough to know to do without the facts base and the sound science and we are absolutely allowing that to proceed.” But then things took an abrupt and troubling turn.

Fifteen months into the twenty-four-month study Perdue abruptly cancelled the research and simultaneously opened the area up to mining, citing no new scientific information was revealed. Two major flaws with that statement, you’re trying to tell me you studied this for over a year and found nothing new whatsoever? I find it hard to believe a 15-month investigation found nothing new.  Highly doubtful. Okay then, let’s say you’re being truthful. If no new science was revealed then the information received from the 2016 study would be the science you would use to make your decision, which based on that studies conclusion, no mining would take place right? Crickets. If you feel this is a tad difficult to understand, you’re correct. It makes no sense. The next natural reaction was, we’re going to need to see these studies. No can do, they’re being withheld from the public. Reading between the lines, it’s easy to determine this study produced enough damming scientific evidence that if revealed, would make mining near the boundary waters impossible. So they shut it down, shut out the public then took science along with fact and buried it without explanation. Meanwhile as everyone scrambles to figure out what happened, a Chilean mining company is closer and closer to setting up shop.

I left Washington with the images of those kids circulating through my mind; their words played in my ears on repeat. I speak for a living and yet had absolutely no idea what to say to them. They had just learned a frightening reality: that evidence and fact don’t serve a place in decision making and will always take a back seat to greed. That even when others throughout history have deemed something untouchable, their water and wilderness will always have a price tag. Worst of all they learned in Washington, the word of men and women in power is seemingly worthless. We can’t live with that. I don’t know the motivation behind this administration’s actions. Whatever their agenda is, I know that in every way their statements are flawed.  I don’t worry about check marks on a ballot. I worry about our future; our water and the longevity of the communities who call northern Minnesota home. The Boundary Waters have been untouched for millions of years.  Generations have relied on their pristine waters for rejuvenation and livelihood. A stroke of the pen and it all may be lost forever.

So my parting question is this: if we allow harm and destruction to fall on the places history has deemed untouchable, where do we draw the line? Or is it that we’ve finally arrived at the point where that line itself no longer exists. Though in the shadows of our Yellowstone’s and Yosemite’s, this northern Minnesota watershed appears miniscule, but it’s outcome will create ripples that extend beyond its borders. If mining proceeds near the Boundary Waters there will be a dire message sent to the rest of the country and the natural places we hold dear attached to it. That no matter how irreplaceable something may be, no matter how damming the scientific evidence or drastic the consequences, there’s nothing that greed cannot overcome.  

On and off camera Colton has been an advocate for the preservation and conservation of our public lands. In 2017 he was awarded the National Parks Conservation Associations Robin W. Winks Award for enhancing public understanding of the national park system. Colton was raised in the town of Delano, Minnesota.    

How to write a public comment!

Friday, January 25, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

How to write a unique public comment that makes a difference!

Personalized, unique comments submitted during the formal public comment period carry even more weight than signing a form/petition. It takes 5-10 minutes to tell the Bureau of Land Management why the Boundary Waters is not worth risking for a sulfide-ore copper mine.

Ready to submit? Click here to start writing your comment.

Need help?

Topic ideas for your comment:
  • Tell the Bureau of Land Management not to renew Twin Metals' old mining leases next to the Boundary Waters.

  • Include your personal experience in the Boundary Waters region for business, recreation, hunting, fishing, etc.

  • The BLM's study of lease renewal does not adequately examine the immense risks from copper mining next to the Boundary Waters, such as economic and environmental impacts.

  • If you have expertise in an area like geology, botany, law etc., feel free to include your perspective and knowledge in those areas especially!

  • Ask the BLM to extend the public comment period (which began right over the Christmas holidays) by at least 60 days to allow for more public and expert input.

Outline for your comment:

I strongly oppose renewal of two federal mineral leases in the Superior National Forest. I urge you to deny renewal.

[Personal story about your Boundary Waters or why the Wilderness is important to you!]

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park, and the Superior National Forest are priceless to the American people and must not be exposed to damage and pollution from sulfide-ore copper mining that would be inevitable if copper mining were to occur on public lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters.

[Facts about the Boundary Waters.]

[The negative impacts sulfide-ore copper mining would have on the Boundary Waters and the surrounding communities. See below for facts and resources.]

We urge you to:

  • Not renew federal mineral leases
  • Provide an extension on the comment period of 62 days to Monday, March 25th.
  • Provide public meetings in Duluth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Washington, DC
  • Prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement to analyze and assess the full range of potential negative impacts to the environment, the economy and to the American people if federal mineral leases were renewed
  • Stop all mining approvals, including the renewal of federal mineral leases, until the Superior National Forest Mineral Withdrawal Environmental Assessment is completed
  • Base all decisions on the best available science

[Your name]

Feel ready to write your own? Start writing your public comment!

Facts and resources to use in your comment:


  • 1.1 million acres of unique canoe country

  • 1,100 lakes with over 2,000 designated campsites

  • 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak routes and 237.5 miles of overnight hiking trails

  • Several sensitive wildlife species make the Wilderness their home, including the gray wolf, moose, Canada lynx and loon.

  • Top fishing and hunting destination


  • 19  SCIENTIFIC STUDIES - The Trump Administration claims that after an “extensive review,” there was no new “scientific information.” However, public record shows that 19 new studies, reports, and scientific journal articles were submitted to the Forest Service on this issue. See them here: Earthworks' Boundary Waters repository of scientific and economic studies.

  • NOT ONE COPPER MINE HAS OPERATED SAFELY - In the history of sulfide-ore copper mining, no copper mine has ever operated and been closed for at least 10 years without polluting surrounding surface water or groundwater. The copper mining industry has a long and continuing history  of severe water pollution including acid drainage, heavy metals contamination, sulfates, and exceedingly high specific conductance, as well as increasingly frequent catastrophic accidents such as tailings dam failures. And even state-of-the-art mines are at risk for major infrastructure disaster. “Research shows that mines with high acid generating potential and in close proximity to surface and groundwater are at highest risk for water quality impacts.” US Copper Porphyry Mines Report, Bonnie Gestring; Earthworks.

  • 500+ YEARS OF POLLUTION - 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 years¹. Tom Meyers, Ph. D. said in one of his reports, “If the sulfide mines are developed in the Rainy Headwaters, it is not a question of whether, but when, a leak will occur that will have major impacts on the water quality of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”
    Learn more about the scientific research pertaining to sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness here.


  • 4,500 JOBS > 650 JOBS - This year, a first-of-its-kind  independent economic analysis by Harvard economists was published.  It compared the effects of the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed 20-year mining ban near the Boundary Waters, with the consequences of sulfide-ore copper mining in the Boundary Waters watershed. The authors modeled 36 employment scenarios and 72 different income scenarios comparing the proposed 20-year ban versus a Twin Metals mine. In all employment scenarios the 20-year ban produced more jobs over a 20-year period in the Boundary Waters region than the mining scenario. In the best-case scenario, Twin Metals Minnesota would only create 650 jobs versus the 4,500 jobs that will be created over 20 years if copper mining is banned and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is protected.
    Learn more about the Harvard Study.

  • $950 MILLION MORE FROM AN AMENITY-BASED ECONOMY THAN A COPPER MINE -A Harvard study showed that a healthy Boundary Waters creates a healthy business boom for the long-haul: a 20-year mining ban would produce far greater economic benefit and diversity than the proposed Twin Metals mine with up to $900 million more personal income to the local area over 20 years if copper mining is banned. Learn more about the Harvard Study.


  • A vast majority of Minnesotans and Americans want the Boundary Waters protected from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. Seventy percent of Minnesotans oppose sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters, and over 94% of the 125,000 public comments on the proposed mineral withdrawal urged protection.

  • An analysis by Key Log Economics found that of the more than 81,000 unique comment letters submitted to the Forest Service in 2017, 98.2%  supported a 20-year ban on sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. In addition, the Forest Service received petitions and postcards signed by 41,971 people that support the mineral withdrawal. Altogether, 121,539 people urged the Forest Service to protect the Boundary Waters. This scoping comment period generated the most participation in an environmental review process in Minnesota history.



  • Sulfide-ore copper mining could have major impacts on human health. “The World Health Organization lists the ten environmental toxins with greatest concern to human health, and sulfide-ore copper mining releases at least six of these - mercury, lead, arsenic, particulate air pollution, asbestos, and cadmium.  Sulfide-ore copper mining also releases sulfates, which fuel the chemical reactions that transform mercury to its toxic form methylmercury.
    These toxins have known harmful effects to human health including cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and neurodevelopmental diseases (dyslexia and other learning disorders, intellectual disabilities, autism, and ADHD among them).  Babies from gestation through age three are especially vulnerable due to their rapidly growing brains, which have a high affinity for these heavy metals.”

  • Learn more from the doctors who visited D.C. to express the concerns of sulfide-ore copper mining impacts on human health.


If you want to find more information about this issue to include in your comments, some good resources include our Science Desk or other blog categories and our Factsheets page.

You can read the BLM's "environmental assessment" document on the renewal of these leases (it's only about 30 pages long).

An open letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt | Kids for the Boundary Waters

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Posted by
Kids for the Boundary Waters

Dear Interior Deputy Secretary Bernhardt:

Last month you met with 40 of us, youth from eight states and two countries, who are members of Kids for The Boundary Waters. We flew to Washington, D.C. to meet with elected and appointed officials in defense of America’s most visited wilderness, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We are writing today to express our disappointment in the actions taken by the BLM on December 20th – under direction of the Department of Interior – to unlawfully renew mineral leases for foreign mining giant, Antofagasta, that were cancelled two years ago.

Antofagasta seeks to exploit our nation’s minerals in the Superior National Forest of Minnesota. Proposed mine sites are adjacent to the Boundary Waters, within the watershed and along lakes and rivers that flow into the 1.1 million acre Wilderness. The toxic acid runoff from these mines would poison the Wilderness lakes, rivers, wetlands, wildlife, and woods.  Sulfide-ore copper mining has never been done in Minnesota, “the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” and with good reason: everywhere it has been done – even in the most arid ecosystems - it has caused environmental damage, usually on a massive scale. The Environmental Protection Agency lists hardrock mining as America’s largest generator of toxic releases.

We all know the end result of these mines on the Boundary Waters: America’s most popular wilderness – her clean waters, wildlife, and woods – irreversibly poisoned, damaged, and destroyed.

Allowing this mining would be a betrayal of our generation. All of us – and hundreds of thousands of other kids – grew up paddling in the Boundary Waters with friends and family, and through camps and outdoor programs such as the five popular YMCA Boundary Waters camps, Camp Koochiching, the Northern Lakes Girl Scout Base, the Northern Tier Boy Scout High Adventure Canoe Base, and Voyageur Outward Bound School. We cut our teeth on the wonders of the natural world in this place, the greatest protected canoe country wilderness in the world.

While you may promote Every Kid Outdoors, it is a meaningless and cruel gesture unless the Interior Department fulfills its promise of wilderness protection for the Boundary Waters. And the only way to fulfill this promise is to say no to copper mining in this place.

Once again, we Kids for The Boundary Waters ask you to stop. Stop advancing dangerous mining that will benefit only a foreign mining company. Join us in advocating for permanent protection of public lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters from copper mining. Only this will ensure that the Boundary Waters remains one of the greatest landscapes for outdoor adventures in the nation.

Over the last two years, agency studies on how to best protect the Boundary Waters have been abruptly cancelled, previous scientific analysis has been ignored, economic impact data has been disregarded, long-expired federal mineral leases have been summarily reinstated, and longstanding environmental precedent and laws have been defied.

During our meeting you heard from just eight of the 40 Kids in our group. Our stories were honest and heartfelt, and included a first-hand account of the wholly destructive nature of this type of mining from a teen who took the time to fly all the way from Peru to share his story.

In response to our well-researched, scientific- and economically-based request, you had no response other than to offer us cookies. We don’t want cookies. We want you and the Department of the Interior to do your jobs to protect America’s Boundary Waters.

Kids for the Boundary Waters is committed to doing everything possible to defend the Boundary Waters. The fight for the Boundary Waters is most especially about us KIDS who will lose something priceless and inherit the mess if this mine is built. This is our future – our water, our public lands, our resources, our health, and our country are at stake. Not this mine. Not in this place. Not Ever.

Respectfully Submitted,

Joseph A. Goldstein
President & Founder, Kids4BW
Springfield, IL

Julia Ruelle
Board Member
Wayzata, MN

Henry Holcomb
Board Member
Minneapolis, MN

Sophia Manolis
Board Member
Minneapolis, MN

Abigael Carron, Boulder CO

Adam Benway, Lima Peru

Christina Treacy, Minneapolis MN

Eamon Davnie, Minneapolis MN

Ellie McConville, St. Paul, MN

Ellie Retzlaff, Eden Prairie MN

Elsie Falconer, Eden Prairie MN

Emma Brewer, St. Paul MN

Gainsley Korengold, Bronxville NY

Grace Pereira, Minneapolis, MN

Greta Lahm, Minneapolis MN

Holiday Holcomb, Minneapolis MN

Isabella Sutherland, Duluth MN

Isaiah Bischoff, Minneapolis, MN

Kaya Sloman, Springfield IL

Keelee Thering, Minneapolis MN

Keira Obert, St. Paul, MN

Elsa Soderstom
Board Member
Minneapolis, MN

Tommasso Maiocco
Board Member
St. Louis, MO

Callie Stolar
Board Member
Evanston, IL

Liam Schatzline, Savage MN

Lillian Lamb, Minneapolis MN

Lily Cartier, New Brighton MN

Lily Pearson, St. Paul, MN

Lola Jensen, Wilmette IL

Maddie Fahnline, Evergreen CO

Maggie Mills, Bloomington MN

Margo Cushman, Milwaukee WI

Marianna Hefte, Minneapolis MN

Molly Potts, Pittsburg PA

Nathan Wegner, Omaha NE

Nayana Gurung, Mendota Heights MN

Noah Miller, Land O’Lakes WI

Piper Jensen, Wilmette IL

Tam Ayers, Arlington VA

William Steiner, Minneapolis MN

Wini Bettenburg, St. Paul MN

The Rush to Ruin the BWCA, Voyageurs National Park, Canada's Quetico Park

Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Posted by
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

In 2016 the U.S. Forest Service concluded that sulfide-ore copper mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness posed inherent risks of serious harm to the “unique, iconic, and irreplaceable wilderness area” and withheld its consent to renewal of the only two federal mineral leases in the Superior; the leases were then cancelled.

NOW: The Trump Administration is fast-tracking the grant of public lands and minerals in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters to foreign mining company Antofagasta.

  • Peer-reviewed science shows that (i) sulfide-ore copper mining would seriously pollute the Boundary Waters and downstream lands and waters and (ii) this damage could not be mitigated or fixed.

  • Independent economic studies show that the Boundary Waters region would enjoy more jobs and income if copper mining were banned.

  • Ideological and corporate interest considerations have been given precedence over massive evidence of the harm that sulfide-ore copper mining would cause to valuable and uniquely vulnerable public lands and waters.

At risk are the nation’s most-visited Wilderness (and only significant lakeland Wilderness) and downstream protected public lands and waters.

  • The clean water of the Superior National Forest, which includes the Boundary Waters, constitutes 20% of the freshwater in the entire 193-million-acre national forest system.



RECENT ACTION: On December 20, 2018 – on the eve of a government shutdown - the Bureau of Land Management released an Environmental Assessment of the two cancelled federal mineral leases and said it was renewing those leases for the benefit of Antofagasta’s Twin Metals.

  • The EA identifies no environmental or economic impacts and does no analysis of harm.

  • The EA does not consider denial of the mineral leases.

  • The public has only 30 days to comment (which includes the year-end holidays).

The Trump Administration is short-circuiting established laws and procedures, making legally indefensible interpretations, and sidestepping treaties designed to protect the Boundary Waters and the rest of the Superior National Forest, Voyageurs, and Quetico – all while sharply limiting environmental review and public involvement, and disregarding and suppressing science that shows harm to the environment, the economy, and human health.

  • Cancelling at the 11th hour a Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) study of a proposed 20-year ban on mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters.

  • Reinstating two expired federal mineral leases – effectively treating expired 20-year leases as 63-year leases.

  • Considering granting mineral leases without Forest Service consent or required environmental review.

  • Ignoring state and federal water quality laws and regulations protective of the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs.

  • Ignoring Wilderness laws protecting the Boundary Waters and the rest of the Superior National Forest.

  • Ignoring the U.S. – Canada Boundary Waters Treaty protective of Quetico.

  • Ignoring the 1854 Treaty with Ojibway tribes.  

The Trump Administration is dismissing science and suppressing its own scientific and economic reports that show harm to the environment, the economy, and human health.

  • Refusing to provide its own reports and studies completed during the FLPMA study of a proposed 20-year mining ban to Congress and the public.

  • Ignoring science, economics, and the testimony of experts, including at least 55 directly relevant reports, submitted to federal agencies over the past five years.

  • Ignoring the studies cited in the detailed U.S. Forest Service denial of consent

The Trump Administration is dismissing and disregarding the views of the American people.

  • Two federal public comment processes (2016 – 2018) involved high levels of public participation and overwhelming support for banning copper mining.

    • Over 250,000 comments; approximately 98% in support of protection

    • Five public hearings; speakers nearly 2-1 in favor of protection

    • More than 55 scientific and economic reports and studies showing damage to the environment, the economy, and public heath






Take 2 minutes to join the thousands of Americans standing up to protect the Boundary Waters.


Personalized, unique comments submitted during the formal public comment period carry even more weight than signing a form/petition.