When people join together, we can accomplish great things. We’ve proven that by beating back Twin Metals, the Chilean-owned mining conglomerates seeking to pollute the Boundary Waters. But despite their losses, this powerful mining conglomerate continues to threaten the Boundary Waters.
Prove It First: Commonsense Protection For The Boundary Waters & Lake Superior
Minnesota is not a Guinea Pig. Before foreign mining companies put a shovel in the ground they need to PROVE they won’t pollute.
DRILLING AT THE EDGE OF THE BOUNDARY WATERS
USHERS IN RENEWED CALL FOR ACTION
Recently, Franconia Minearals, a subsidiary of Twin Metals, has been given the green light to drill at the doorstep of the Boundary Waters.
This kind of exploratory drilling can signal one thing: Plans for developing a dangerous copper-sulfide mine that would pollute some of the cleanest water on earth.
Despite beating back this giant mining conglomerate and wining victories such as a 20-year ban on copper-sulfide mining on federal land surrounding the Boundary Waters and stripping Twin Metals of its leases, greed is tenacious.
This current drilling project is on state land, ushering a new stage in the fight against Twin Metals.
The threat has not gone away.
A Brief History of Twin Metals
When plans for a copper-sulfide mine near the edge of the Boundary Waters was announced, people began to organize and rally around an effort to protect some of the cleanest water in the country.
After reexamining the consequences such a mine would have on the surrounding environment, the Department of the Interior opted not to renew the mineral leases held by the Chilean-owned mining conglomerate seeking to open the mine, Antofagasta. No leases, no mines.
What’s more, the Forest Service announced that it would begin a two-year study on the potential effects of copper-sulfide mining on the Boundary Waters watershed. This study would consider whether or not there should be an all-out ban on mining on some 234,000 acres of federal land surrounding the Boundary Waters.
These victories, however, were short-lived. When Trump took office, Antofagasta began an intensive lobbying campaign, complete with the billionaire owner of Antofagasta buying a mansion in Washington, DC that he rented to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The industry-friendly administration rolled out the red carpet for Antofagasta, illegally revived and reinstated the expired mineral leases, and then abruptly stopped the two-year study. Subsequently they suppressed all the research and findings in the study from the public. Clearly they were working for Antofagasta’s best interests.
But after the 2020 elections, things once again changed. The Biden administration reversed these industry giveaways, canceling the two mineral leases that had been illegally revived by the Trump administration. The administration then completed the two-year study, which ultimately resulted in a 20-year ban on sulfide mining on federal land near the Boundary Waters.
Of course, Antofagasta and its subsidiary Twin Metals weren’t going to accept this.
With little legal grounding to their claims, they sued the federal government in an attempt to undercut these protections. Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, along with other conservation groups, businesses and organizations, intervened on behalf of the federal government. Twin Metals was making a Hail Mary pass, and we asked the court to dismiss the case.
In a 21-page ruling, the judge concluded that Twin Metals’ lawsuit lacked the legal requirements to go forward on two of its claims, the judge also said the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the other two claims brought by Twin Metals. And so, the court threw out the case.
As far as legal recourse goes, there is little Twin Metals can do.
This recent victory is one more layer of protection against mining interests. Though it may seem like the Boundary Waters is safe, one need only to look at the past eight years to know that nothing is guaranteed. Administrations change, priorities change, and just because the Boundary Waters is protected today, doesn’t mean the danger from the mining industry has passed.
As long as there is copper in the ground, the threat will remain.
But as long as people paddle these waters and fall in love with the place, there will be people to protect it.
Speak Up for Clean Water
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has introduced a Prove It First bill into the Minnesota legislature. If signed into law, it would stop Twin Metals and other dangerous mines from polluting our water.
This common-sense piece of legislation is simple. Before a copper-sulfide mine could be permitted in Minnesota, there must be independent proof that a similar mine has operated for at least ten years without causing pollution and that a mine has been closed for at least ten years without causing pollution.
Learn more about the mining proposals
The victory over Twin Metals’ copper-sulfide mine, which could have contaminated over two million acres of pristine water throughout the BWCA, Quetico and Voyageurs National Park, is an incredible story, and helps us understand the challenges ahead.
PolyMet is the snowplow leading to other copper-sulfide mines near the BWCA. Though we have won astonishing victories against this dangerous project, the fight for environmental justice is far from over.
The most recent threat to emerge, the proposed joint venture between Teck and PolyMet would impact two watersheds and potentially pollute both the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior. Learn more about what we are doing to stop this dangerous project.