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The Concern Widens over Copper Sulfide Mining in the Rainy River and Lake Superior Watersheds


-“If someone said ‘name me a prosperous mining town,’ you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a name.” –Thomas Power, Ph.D., Chairman Univ. of Montana Economics Dept.[1] See Dr. Power’s Ely Presentation (similar talk recently given in Duluth) Here:

Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) are a grassroots group of sportsmen and women who are united by a passion to protect and conserve the public lands, forests, mountains, prairies, streams, and lakes that support our hunting and angling traditions.

We respectfully request that the International Joint Commission (IJC) examine and report upon the water-related impacts from sulfide mining exploration and development within the Rainy River and Lake Superior Basins.

“Mining without harm” and “environmentally safe mining” may sound great, but there is zero evidence to back up the claim that sulfide mining can be done without causing devastating watershed pollution. In fact, mining of sulfide-metal ore has never been accomplished without causing eventual acid-metal leachate pollution of ground and surface waters. As a result, Wisconsin placed a moratorium on sulfide mining operations in 1997, until it could be demonstrated that such a mine would not pollute the water.

In fact, there are no examples in the world of such a mine that has not polluted.

America’s public lands—and the fish and wildlife that call them home—are struggling to recover from the effects of a century of hard-rock mining. In 2004, the federal government estimated it would cost taxpayers $7.8 billion to clean up 63 of the mining operations designated as Superfund sites by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; cleaning up all abandoned hard-rock mines would cost between $20 billion and $54 billion.

In January 2012, the EPA released its annual Toxic Release Inventory. Once again, metal mining was at the top of the list of polluters across the country. Such mining was responsible for 41 percent of all pollution in our country last year.

Pequaywan Township north of Duluth has become the third township in the region to pass a resolution asking for a go-slow-or-don’t-go approach to sulfide mining.

The resolution asks for a state “prove it first” law that shows copper mines can be operated and closed without environmental degradation somewhere else before they are allowed to operate here.

Mining has historically always been a boom and bust industry, and in the last 20 years sixteen hard rock mines declared bankruptcy. This devastates local economies dependent on the mining industry and forces taxpayers to cover the enormous cost of cleanup and restoration.

If mining companies’ promises were true, northern Minnesota would be the wealthiest part of the country after some 130 years of iron ore mining in the region. As Minnesota BHA co-chair Darrell Spencer says, “The jobs are temporary. The profits are going to foreign ownership and foreign investors. The copper is going to Canada to be processed. The minerals will end up in China helping their GDP. And Minnesotans will be left to live with the to

“In Minnesota, the fishing industry alone supports 50,000 jobs and recreational fishing brings in $3 billion a year,” adds Minnesota BHA vice-chair Erik Jensen, “which would be in jeopardy when acid-mine drainage (AMD) leaches into creeks, streams, rivers and watersheds, eventually ending up in Lake Superior.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, conservation is at a crossroads right now,” former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. “It’s about jobs,” Salazar added. “We know hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation have a huge economic contribution to this country.” Minnesota’s legislators should follow the advice of Interior Secretary Salazar, and not jeopardize tens of thousands of sustainable long-term jobs for a couple hundred temporary sulfide mining jobs that will cost the rest of us millions, and possibly billions.

These short-sighted mining proposals amount to gambling with the future of our Great Outdoors, and Minnesota’s nearly 2 million hunters and anglers—and the bait shops, resorts, fishing guides, and hotels that depend on their business—won’t stand for it. They understand that healthy public wildlife habitat, rivers, and streams are the foundation supporting the American pastimes of hunting and fishing.

We request that the Commission proceed with an analysis and recommendation regarding these proposed sulfide mining operations as soon as practical. Thank you in advance for your efforts to protect northern Minnesota’s pristine waters and wildlands and wildlife, and for considering our “boots-on-the-ground” input regarding these sulfide mining proposals.

Sulfide Mining Information/Resources

The Complete Article can be read here: We respectfully request that the International Joint Commission (IJC)

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