Far and away, Metallic Sulfide Mining represents the greatest current threat to the BWCAW and its environs. The extraction of heavy metals – gold, copper, palladium, nickel and others – from sulfide bearing ore has the potential to contaminate waters flowing into the Wilderness. This would be lethal to fish, plant life and other species. Such mining practices elsewhere have inevitably led to huge environmental failures and to taxpayer clean-up costs in the millions of dollars. Core sample drilling has already begun within a mile of the BWCAW boundary. NMW continues to monitor and analyze the permitting process, advocate for more rigorous laws and regulations in the Minnesota Legislature and Congress and inform the public of near-certain dangers.
The science of Sulfide Mining
The science shows that Copper/Nickel Mining threatens the aquatic ecosystem of the South
Kawishiwi River and to lakes and livers downstream in the Boundary Waters Canoe
Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota and in Quetico Provincial
Park in Ontario.
The Economics of Sulfide Mining
The State of Minnesota is relying on a fatally flawed economic impact analysis to support sulfide ore mining in Northeastern Minnesota. Dr. Evan Hjerpe and Dr. Spencer Phillips found that the UMD study being used to project the Economic benefits of sulfide ore mining is of low quality and limited scope in scope.
“This type of hard rock mining carries greater risks to water quality and wildlife habitat in one of the most beautiful corners of the state. Copper-nickel mines, also known as hard-rock mines, have a long legacy of destruction in other states, primarily the west, and taxpayers are spending millions of dollars to clean up streams and rivers at other sites across the country.
Unlike the taconite long mined in northeastern Minnesota, these precious metals are found in ore that contain sulfides. When exposed to air and water, the sulfides create acid drainage that leaches heavy metals and mercury from rock, and the acidity destroys aquatic life.”
-Minneapolis Star Tribune, On-Line, December 6, 2013