Breaking: NMW joins mineral rights lawsuit

Read about NMW’s success in intervening on behalf of wilderness edge residents, business owners, sportsmen and women and others who depend on the Wilderness on the side of the government in the lawsuit Twin Metals served aiming to regain their mineral rights for sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters. The leases were denied in late 2016.

“A federal judge has approved an environmental group’s request to intervene in a lawsuit over mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near Ely in northeastern Minnesota. Judge Susan Richard Nelson said in a ruling Tuesday that Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness meets the legal requirements for becoming a defendant in the lawsuit.” – Associated Press report on MPR News

“A Minnesota environmental group will be allowed to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by Twin Metals last year against the federal government. A federal judge Tuesday ruled that Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness to join the Interior Department in battling against the lawsuit, filed by Twin Metals last September.” – Duluth News Tribune

ACT NOW: Comment Period

Action Button3Several amazing announcements at the end of last year and the beginning of this year mean big news for the Boundary Waters – specifically, Twin Metals’ request to renew its mineral leases was denied, and a watershed-wide environmental review was initiated. We’re proud of the work of our Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and the great strides we’ve taken to protect the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and we know we couldn’t have done it without you or our Campaign partners. You need to know, however, that even though one mining company lost its leases, the fight to protect the Boundary Waters is not over.

More work is ahead for us and for you. There will be critical moments when we will need you to comment on behalf of the Boundary Waters. It is very important that you take action at each opportunity. Right now is one of those times — comment here!

Read more on the Campaign’s Science Desk blog: Big News! But What Does it Mean for the BWCA?

Latest News:
MPR: How Ely has navigated environmental, economic concerns (January 23, 2017)
St. Cloud Times: Voice your support for BWCA (January 21, 2017)
Timberjay: USFS, BLM take steps to enact 20-year mineral leases prohibition (January 19, 2017)
Duluth News Tribune: Forest Service files two-year timeout on mining (January 13, 2017)

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BREAKING NEWS: Twin Metals leases denied. Watershed environmental review to come.

On Thursday, December 15, 2016, federal agencies announced that Twin Metals mineral leases were denied and that an environmental review of the Boundary Waters watershed would commence. The Bureau of Land Management stated in its release, “Citing broad concerns from thousands of public comments and input about potential impacts of mining on the wilderness area’s watershed, fish and wildlife, and the nearly $45 million recreation economy, the agencies today took actions that denied an application for renewal of two hard rock mineral leases in the area, as well as initiated steps to withdraw key portions of the watershed from new mineral permits and leases.”

We’re proud of our work, which led to these two decisions. But it couldn’t happen without the help of all of our dedicated supporters and our amazing partners. Read NMW Vice Chair/Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters National Campaign Chair Becky Rom’s statement below (read the full release from the Campaign here). Keep in mind, there’s more work to be done. Stay tuned for an announcement of a 90-day comment period to determine whether the watershed of the BWCA is the wrong place for sulfide-ore copper mining and should be removed from the federal mining program altogether. And act now to urge Minnesota’s senators to support permanent protection for this watershed.

“The Boundary Waters is a special place for Minnesotans who love hunting, fishing and recreation and who depend on thousands of jobs sustained by America’s most-popular wilderness. Science has clearly shown that copper mining would inflict devastating harm on this priceless wilderness. Today’s decision reflects strong support from a majority of Minnesotans who want to prioritize the wide-ranging value our communities gain from a healthy Boundary Waters, rather than open an industrial mining zone less than a mile from the wilderness edge. It’s a strong first step, but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure we can protect the BWCA for future generations. Our coalition keeps growing as sportsmen, veterans, businesses and other interests sign on to support our efforts.”
Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

In the News
Washington Post
The New York Times

Star Tribune

MinnPost
MPR
Outdoor News
FOX 9
Pioneer Press
Duluth News Tribune

Governor Dayton Voices Strong Opposition to Mining Near BWCA

daytonletterblogOn March 7, Governor Mark Dayton released a letter he sent to Twin Metals Minnesota, owned by international mining company Antofagasta, about the need to protect the Boundary Waters. The letter outlines his “grave concerns” about Twin Metals’ proposed massive sulfide-ore mining operation in the Boundary Waters Wilderness watershed.

“… my concern is for the inherent risks associated with any mining operation in close proximity to the BWCAW,” says Governor Dayton. “… I have an obligation to ensure [the Boundary Waters] is not diminished in any way. Its uniqueness and fragility require that we exercise special care when we evaluate significant land use changes in the area, and I am unwilling to take risks with that Minnesota environmental icon.”

In the letter, Dayton calls the Boundary Waters a “crown jewel in Minnesota and a national treasure.” The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has been working tirelessly to help decision makers like Governor Dayton recognize that America’s most visited wilderness is not the place for what the EPA calls the most toxic industry in America and take action to ensure its protection for future generations.

“The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a national treasure. It is too special to put at risk,” said Becky Rom, National Campaign Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, in response to the Governor’s letter. “This is a clear signal that the lands near the Boundary Waters Wilderness should be off limits to sulfide-ore mining. I’d like to thank the Governor for his strong leadership on this issue.”

The Governor has also reached out to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). “I apprised the Director of my strong opposition to mining in close proximity to the BWCAW,” he says in his letter. “I was informed that the BLM is in the process of making a determination pertaining to the renewal of Twin Metals’ federal lease holdings. I believe that the BLM decision will offer further guidance on the future of mining in the area.”

Let’s thank Governor Dayton for his leadership and urge him to do everything in his powers to support permanent protection for the Boundary Waters Wilderness watershed.

Taking Action on PolyMet to Protect the Boundary Waters

This summer, news broke about the potential for the PolyMet NorthMet sulfide-ore copper mining project to impact the Boundary Waters due to lack of understanding of whether polluted waters would flow south or north. The threat from PolyMet would add to that already posed by the proposed Twin Metals mine on the wilderness edge, creating the potential for large cumulative impact. The Timberjay originally reported that, “The [Peter Mitchell mine] pits, which sit about a mile north of the proposed PolyMet mine, currently discharge in several directions. Upon closure [of the Peter Mitchell mine], however, all of the discharge is slated to enter Birch Lake, part of the Kawishiwi River, a major BWCAW watershed.”

Despite receiving official objections about the adequacy of the water model from Tribal authorities, led by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did little to respond to the possibility that PolyMet’s contaminated water could flow north and in much larger amounts than previously thought. A December Timberjay article highlights GLIFWC’s continued concerns and shows that the DNR provides no data to support the position that large, northward flows of contaminated groundwater aren’t a concern.

In our efforts to protect the Boundary Waters, we are joining with other local groups to share concerns about the PolyMet project. For more information about the potential impact from PolyMet to the Boundary Waters and the inherent impossibility of guaranteeing a sulfide-ore copper mine free of environmental impacts,, please see the articles linked below.

Tribes: FEIS water model still flawed, Timberjay (December 2015)
Agency: PolyMet discharge would flow north to BWCA, Timberjay (August 2015)
PolyMet mine water could flow northward, toward BWCA, Star Tribune (September 2015)

To take action on this issue, you can add your comment here. The suggested comment is included below.

I oppose the proposed PolyMet NorthMet copper-nickel sulfide mine. The PolyMet Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is inadequate under both federal and state standards; I object to the U.S. Forest Service proposal to exchange Superior National Forest land for the PolyMet proposal; and I oppose issuing any federal permit allowing PolyMet to destroy wetlands and impair water quality.

The PolyMet FEIS is inadequate under federal and state laws and regulations because:
– It fails to evaluate pollution risks to drinking water, fish, wild rice and human health using realistic assumptions about how much polluted seepage will be captured and treated during operations, reclamation, and closure.
– It fails to analyze health risks and impacts on children, workers and communities who rely on fish and wild rice for subsistence, including risks from asbestos-like particles and methylmercury.
– It does not evaluate the impacts of polluted seepage north of the mine site on the 100 Mile Swamp and the Rainy River (Boundary Waters area) Basin.
– It fails to adequately consider alternatives to minimize environmental harm, reduce polluted seepage from unlined permanent waste facilities, mitigate wetlands destruction, and reduce the threat of catastrophic dam failure.

I strongly object to the proposed NorthMet Mining Project Land Exchange in the Superior National Forest because:
– It conflicts with federal policy to protect wetlands, resulting in direct destruction of 913 acres of wetlands and destruction or impairment of up to 8,264 acres of wetlands.
– It would degrade surface and groundwater, violating the Superior National Forest plan and state, federal and tribal water quality standards.
– It would harm endangered, threatened and species of concern, including the northern goshawk, great gray owl, lynx and moose.
– It is not in the public interest, would impair tribal resources, and would result in an uncalculated loss of ecological services.

I oppose any federal Clean Water Act permit for PolyMet discharge and wetlands destruction because:
– PolyMet discharge of pollutants and wetlands destruction and impairment would degrade surface and groundwater and violate federal, state and tribal water quality standards.
– PolyMet discharge of pollutants and wetlands destruction and impairment would have adverse impacts on municipal water supplies, aquatic life, wildlife, human health and welfare, environmental justice and special aquatic sites.
– The PolyMet proposal does not adequately consider alternatives to reduce harm to wetlands and water quality and is not the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative.
– The PolyMet proposal fails to quantify or provide mitigation for indirect loss of up to 8,264 acres of wetlands, and provides wholly inadequate mitigation for direct destruction of 913 acres of wetlands within the Lake Superior Basin.

I request the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reject the PolyMet FEIS as inadequate; the U.S. Forest Service reject the proposed exchange of Superior National Forest lands for the PolyMet project; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency veto and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deny any Section 404 permit that would allow PolyMet polluted discharge and wetlands destruction.

I object to the land exchange under the Forest Service Rules found at 36 CFR 218; the responsible official for that decision is Superior National Forest Supervisor Brenda Halter. I submitted comments on the PolyMet SDEIS and/or I reject any claim that the objection process can be limited to people who commented prior to the draft land exchange Record of Decision. I will provide a signature to verify my identity upon request.

I request a specific response to my comments.

“PolyMet discharge would flow north to BWCA” – Timberjay

A recent Timberjay story shared the latest news on water flow for the PolyMet mine project, stating: “Fundamental miscalculations in water model render EIS results invalid.” Read the Timberjay story for more details.

GLIFWC’s analysis raises serious concerns about whether the co-lead agencies fully understand PolyMet’s potential for environmental impact, especially its potential to threaten the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. NMW supports GLIFWC’s request to the co-lead agencies that the groundwater model problems be addressed and that they undertake the analysis necessary to accurately assess the direction that contaminants will flow.

Paddle to DC send off Event Sunday, August 24th

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Paddle with the Freemans for the first mile of their 2,000 mile journey by water to Washington DC. Sign the petition canoe and support their efforts to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide ore mining.

Where: Voyageur Outward Bound School (Kawishiwi River)
When: August 24th Noon to 2:00 PM
What: Canoe floatilla on the Kawishiwi River

The canoe floatilla will leave VOBS at 1 PM and escort the Freemans down the Kawishiwi River for 1.5 miles to the boat landing at the Highway 1 bridge. Canoes, life jackets, paddles and a shuttle back to your vehicle will be provided. Feel free to arrive at noon to socialize and eat lunch at VOBS before the paddle. Families are welcome. Come join us for a fun afternoon on the water!Please RSVP so that we know how many canoes are needed by calling or emailing Sustainable Ely 218-365-7808, nmw@nmworg.org .

Wilderness Supporters gathered together during our 2013 floatilla on the Kawishiwi River.

Wilderness Supporters gathered together during our 2013 floatilla on the Kawishiwi River.

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