Proposed sulfide mining threatens Boundary Waters

On the back seat of my car, there are two canoe paddles. Their finish is gone and they look aged – proof of the hundreds of miles that they have explored on Minnesota’s waterways. The most pristine of all waters they have seen was in our beloved Minnesota wild, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Since the creation of the Boundary Waters Act of 1978, this 1 million-acre wilderness has been protected under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service. I feel fortunate to have such an expanse of fragrant pines, clean water, and loon calls in my home state. The Boundary Waters is the largest protected wilderness east of the Rocky Mountains and is considered one of the crown jewels of the Forest Service’s protected wilderness.

Sadly, our wilderness is being threatened by sulfide mining. Out-of-state mining companies, such as PolyMet, are already conducting exploratory drilling outside of the Boundary Waters. With sulfide mining so close to our unspoiled wilderness, toxic by-products could flow directly into waterways that enter the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior. Drainage from this type of mining can have hazardous results including creating sulfuric acid, increasing mercury pollution, turning water extremely acidic, jeopardizing drinking water sources, killing fish and other wildlife and destroying the habitat they depend on.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knows that hard-rock mining, such as sulfide mining, is the largest source of toxic waste in the country. That’s why the EPA opposed PolyMet’s original sulfide mining plan for northern Minnesota. However, this fall, PolyMet is expected to release a new mining plan. It is likely that the powerful mining industry will use their influence in St. Paul and Washington, D.C., to try and get approval for this plan that would damage Minnesota’s ecosystems and waterways including the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior.

As Minnesotans, we must protect our wilderness from the threat of toxic sulfide mining. By writing to the EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson urging her to block any new mining operations near the Boundary Waters, together we can save our beloved Boundary Waters.

Renee Noren