Mining Minnesota- What’s the Big Deal?

     A friend shared some information regarding the proposed mining near the Boundary Waters. She listed some great resources and answered some common questions so I thought I would share the information with you.  Please see below…

Non-ferrous mining is very different from taconite and iron mining. As a mining process it produces sulfuric acid as a biproduct, which is basically the same as battery acid. Throughout the U.S. and the world sulfide mines have left behind superfund sites and heavy metal pollution of soils and wetlands. The EPA’s recent publication Toxic Release Inventory reports that this type of mining is responsible for 41 percent of all pollution in the United States. Rep. Alice Hausman has introduced legislation pertaining to sulfide mining in Minnesota which will require mining companies to show a 10 year record of good environmental stewardship and managing waste and hazardous biproducts safely. The bill is called "Prove it First" which is similar to what the state of Wisconsin passed. So far the bill, H.F.2800, has not been allowed a hearing.
Of several international mining corporations now already drilling and prospecting in the region which covers the Minnesota Arrowhead from Duluth to the Gunflint trail and border country,
two mines are making swift progress toward the permitting stage.

1) Glencore/Polymet, located outside Hoyt Lakes on a tributary of the St. Louis River. Glencore is a multi-national and the primary investor. There is a lot of information out there about Glencore’s environmental track record, and none of it is good. See link below regarding Tony Hayward’s relationship to this project.

2) Antofagasta/Twin Metals, is located in Ely, with test drilling already being done on the edge of the BWCAW. While the mining company claims that only 20 acres of surface area will be used to operate the mine, the sheer size of the underground operation makes it clear that this is misinformation. According to the articles below, this mine will be the largest in No. America and one of the three largest in the world.

URS is the consulting firm that was responsible for safety inspections at the 35W bridge, and are now contracted as the environment and safety consultant for the Twin Metals project.  It should also be noted that Bechtel, the company contracted for the engineering of the Twin Metals project, is another somewhat nefarious multi-national that also has connections to the 35 W bridge collapse, and more.

So far our legislators are in support of the jobs created by the proposed mines but no one is very clear on the numbers of "permanent" jobs. Some predict 400, some predict 1,000. To date, neither the mining companies nor IRRRB could provide a breakdown of mine jobs v. construction jobs. What we do know for a fact is that there are 30,000 tourism related jobs in NE Minnesota that rely on clean water and our natural environment.

Legislators, Representatives and our Governor state a basic belief in job creation as a number one priority,  and that Minnesota’s "strict environmental protections" will keep the mining companies from polluting. However, the mining lobby is actively trying to change the water quality rules. See the link below to "Protect our Manoomin", regarding the relationship of wild rice to water sulfate standards.

The Lake Superior Chippewa tribe including Grand Portage and Fond du Lac are strongly in opposition to any changes in water quality standards to accommodate mining in these areas.

Many organizations (listed below with contact information), including the new and locally formed non-profit, Sled Dogs to St. Paul, (with Frank Moe, a former Minnesota State representative), are working vigilantly to get the word out to everyone concerned, and to prevent this proven toxic industry from setting up operations in the watershed of Lake Superior and hundreds of boundary lakes. 

Here’s a list of resource organizations that I have relied on for important non-ferrous mining information:

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness:

Precious Waters:


Sled Dogs to St Paul:

Frank Moe, (Frank is now living in Hovland, is a former MN Representative who carried a petition bearing 12,000 signatures in opposition to sulfide mining to the Minnesota state capitol by dog sled, just last month!) facebook page: 

Save our Sky Blue Waters:

Save Lake Superior Association:

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
(651) 223-5969

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness