Inside Twin Metals’ Plan to Pollute


It’s no secret that copper-sulfide mining has a near perfect record of polluting, or that Twin Metals’ plan to build such a mine at the footsteps of the Boundary Waters would inevitably lead to an environmental disaster.

We have long warned that, if built, Twin Metals’ proposed copper-sulfide mine would cause irreparable harm to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and pollute some of the cleanest water on Earth. Copper-sulfide mines, such as the one proposed by Twin Metals, produce acid mine drainage (AMD), which is toxic runoff of sulfuric acid that is devastating to land and water resources. In a water-rich environment such as northeastern Minnesota, the consequences would be even more severe. Twin Metals and their allies have argued that they will build an “environmentally friendly” 21st century mine, one equipped with the modern technology that will prevent pollution.

When Twin Metals released its Mine Plan of Operation late last year, it was a chance for us to closely study the kind of mine they intend to build.

At the end of August, after months studying the draft mine plan proposed by Chilean-owned Twin Metals, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and our partner, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) submitted initial comments to the Bureau of Land Management and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

(Above: Read or download our comments on Twin Metals’ Mine Plan of Operation)

“What the team of experts has found,” said Chris Knopf, Executive Director at Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, “is that the mine that Twin Metals wants to build is set up to fail. The mine plan is riddled with oversights, numerous red flags, and cut corners that show that Twin Metals is neither willing nor able to protect the environment or human health. The fact that this is the wrong mine at the wrong location.”

The team of experts assembled by the Friends and MCEA has decades of experience in geology, hydrology, biology, chemistry, and risk assessment. In their analysis of the mine, the experts found that Twin Metals’ draft plan:

  • Consistently underreports and under-analyzes data

  • Narrowly adopts questionable mine construction, operation, closure, and post-closure plans

  • Fails to plan for remedial measures for the impacts it would have on the surrounding waters, forests, wildlife, ecosystems, and human health

  • Lacks comprehensive monitoring plans for the site and affected resources, and

  • Includes neither any contingency plans to address adverse outcomes nor any statements of intention to develop contingency plans

In addition to these problems, experts also questioned whether, given low grade of ore, the project is economically feasible without cutting corners that would lower safeguards and increase the likelihood of an environmental catastrophe.

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