This afternoon Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness submitted comments supporting the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) proposed moratorium on new mineral leases in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), and in a separate move delivered its own comments opposing PolyMet’s draft permit to mine to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The mineral lease withdrawal pertains to more than 234,000 acres near the BWCAW, and the USFS’s moratorium will prevent toxic sulfide mining in the area. “Sulfide mining has never been done in Minnesota, and the industry has a terrible track record of environmental destruction across the United States and around the globe,” says Chris Knopf, executive director of the Friends.
The Friends has long seen the PolyMet sulfide mine as a dire threat to the region, and most recently helped organize the strong pro-clean water showing at a public hearing on February 8 in Duluth. “PolyMet is a clear and present danger to the taxpayers of Minnesota,” explains Knopf. “Under the draft permit, PolyMet has to contribute little cash for the first 10 years of the mine to cover the estimated $1 billion in potential clean-up costs.
“If a clean-up is needed during the first 10 years, without the cash set aside it’s the taxpayers who will pay for this staggering liability,” he adds.
The Friends also will submit additional pro-clean water, PolyMet-related comments from its 3,000-plus members on the March 6 submission deadline.
With more than a quarter million visitors each year, the BWCAW is the most visited wilderness area in the United States, and the Friends has been the leading voice for protecting the pristine area for more than 40 years.