View of the toxic Berkeley Pit in 2017 in Butte, Montana. The former open pit copper mine is now part of the largest Superfund site in the United States. In the 1860s, the Butte area was known as the ‘Richest Hill on Earth’ due to the bonanza in copper and other metals. (Photo by Janie Osborne/Getty Images)
Action – Be Indivisible. Spend 10 minutes this MLK Day helping people stop this travesty.
- Note: the eplanning portal site is down. (Not essential?) Write out your comment on a separate file and get it ready to submit. Have emailed leadership personnel at BLM with request to extend comment period. Copied our senators and congresspeople.
Although a request is in to extend the comment period, go ahead and post a public comment directly with the US. Forest service here, (tip, the button to proceed with each step is on the bottom right) opposing the proposal to renew expired mineral leases on the Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters by the original deadline of Jan. 22nd, or use the comment from this site. Example comments below.
BackgroundEmbed from Getty Images
In late 2016, under the Obama administration, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management stripped Twin Metals Minnesota (a subsidiary of the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta) of its leases to build a massive underground copper-nickle mine near Ely, MN, just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (Underground mining dangers here.) The intent was to ban mining in the watershed for 20 years, citing the many potential risks of sulfide ore copper-nickel mining to an “irreplaceable” wilderness area.
(Duluth New Tribune) “During mining, if air and water contact the ore, toxic sulfuric acid can result. This acid could then leach toxic heavy metals that are bound to the ore. Sulfuric acid and heavy metals released would comprise acid mine drainage, which would pollute surface water and groundwater. The World Health Organization has stated that this type of mining releases six of the top 10 toxins of greatest concern to human health: mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, asbestos, and particulate air pollution. These toxins are known to cause cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and neurodevelopmental disease.
The Environmental Protection Agency has declared hard-rock mining to be the most toxic industry in the U.S. Any toxic mining drainage from mines on these leased lands would flow directly into the Boundary Waters.“Embed from Getty Images
The Trump administration has not only canceled the environmental study of the proposed 20-year mineral withdrawal, but, no surprises here, is moving to renew the leases. Governor Mark Dayton stated “Driven by greed and willful ignorance, the Trump Administration has consistently demonstrated an insatiable appetite for selling out to large corporate interests at the expense of our environment. Yet again, they have pulled out all the stops to kowtow to the financial interests of a large Chilean corporation with a terrible environmental record.”
Comment source material – Use your own words!
Note, they discount identical statements, so try to use your own voice.
Here’s their original Environmental Assessment report.
Comment example: The proposal to renew expired mineral leases on the Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters shows a disregard for science, economics, and public opinion. The U.S. Forest Service rejected these very leases in 2016 because allowing mining to proceed would be inconsistent with its obligation to manage and protect these lands and waters for future generations.
Comment example: The Trump Administration has issued a faulty environmental assessment (EA) to justify its illegal decision to renew two expired federal mineral leases formerly owned by Twin Metals at the doorstep of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota.
The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited Wilderness. The 1.1 million-acre lakeland Wilderness has over 1,000 lakes and 1,200 miles of rivers and streams containing clean, drinkable water. It offers unmatched fishing, hunting, and recreational opportunities. The Superior National Forest and Voyageurs National Park are also priceless to the American people.
Pollution from this proposed mine will inevitably drain into and damage the fabled Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, other parts of Superior National Forest, and Voyageurs National Park.”
Comment example: I strongly oppose renewal of two federal mineral leases formerly owned by Twin Metals at the doorstep of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota.
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.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is America’s most visited Wilderness. The Wilderness, a 1.1 million-acre lakeland wilderness area, has over 1,000 lakes and 1,200 miles of rivers and streams containing clean, drinkable water. It offers unmatched fishing, hunting, and recreational opportunities for all Americans to enjoy.
The Boundary Waters is the heart of the sustainable and growing amenity-based economy of northeastern Minnesota. An independent economic study documents that the region would generate dramatically more jobs and income over 20 years if copper mining were banned from the watershed of the Boundary Waters, and the regional economy would suffer with a Twin Metals mine.
I urge you to:
- Not renew the 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 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
Comment example: The whole decision on extending a third lease (M-37049) is apparently based on a deal made in 1966. We’ve learned a lot about environmental issues in the intervening 53 years, especially about the toxicity created by copper mining operations. The World Health Organization has stated that this type of mining releases six of the top 10 toxins of greatest concern to human health: mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, asbestos, and particulate air pollution. These toxins are known to cause cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and neurodevelopmental disease. Any toxic mining drainage from mines on these leased lands would flow directly into the Boundary Waters. The “Original (No action Alternative) could now be considered criminally negligent, and the New (Proposed Plan) is close. The Environmental Assessment is amateurish and inadequate. Phrases that ultimately mean nothing, like “limit occupancy to that which is necessary for safe operations”, “Exercise reasonable diligence to protect…” abound. How was “20 acres” determined to be a reasonable disturbance area? It feels very arbitrary. How does that work with protecting endangered specie habitat? How are areas chosen and timed with animal and plant life cycles? A true Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is the minimum requirement before proceeding on any plan so precarious. Also noted, nowhere in the EA is a discussion of lease termination requirements if any safety issues for contaminants cannot be “reasonably” achieved. If the toxins produced in copper mining aren’t heading straight into the nearest water source like the good old days, where are they going? Ground disturbance was referred to in the original lease but water and air contamination are now just as important. The Clean Water Act referred to in the new plan does not directly address groundwater contamination. Groundwater protection provisions are included in the Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Superfund act. None of these acts are referenced, and as the Clean Water Act is under attack by this administration, it is specious that it is included without specifics. What are the minimum changes in contamination before operations are shut down? What are the procedures in place for monitoring? What are the penalties for polluting this “pristine” place, poisoning people and wildlife? Where is the discussion of the impact (sound, vibration, light, air pollution, soil pollution, animal kills) of numerous heavy ore trucks traveling to and from the site, continuously for 10 years? What insurance or sureties are offered by this foreign firm if they decide to walk away from a Super Fund-level toxic site? This isn’t 1966 anymore. What flew under the radar environmentally then won’t now. Stop leasing this incredibly sensitive site.
Background Reading and Maps
- Expired mineral leases latest flashpoint over (copper) mining near Boundary Waters (MPRnews)
- Environmental Risks of mining (mit.edu)
- More groups sue Department of Interior over mineral leases (Duluth News Tribune)
- Risks from Sulfide-Ore Copper Mining (sportsmenfortheboundarywaters.org)
- Wilderness war – Ice fishing on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (outdoor life)
- Local View: speak up now if you treasure the BWCAW (Duluth News Tribune)
The Twin Metals mineral deposits and the BWCA are both located within the Rainy River Watershed.
A ban on mining has been lifted around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National Forest. William Lager | MPR News