Protecting The BWCAW
From Sulfide Mining

Call Congress: H.R. 3905 Threatens BWCAW

Representative Tom Emmer has introduced a bill in Congress that reinstates the Twin Metals mineral leases on the edge of the BWCAW. The bill would also require Congressional approval to establish national monuments and withdraw Superior National Forest land from mining. Our members of Congress need to hear that this bill is unacceptable, revokes basic environmental protections in Minnesota, and puts a national treasure at risk.

The bill:

  • Reinstates the Twin Metals mineral leases on the edge of the Boundary Waters. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management denied the renewal of these leases because sulfide mining on the edge of the wilderness puts the wilderness at risk. H.R. 3905 would reverse that decision.
  • Does not allow a mineral withdrawal to protect the BWCA unless it is approved by Congress. The Secretary of the Interior has authority over mineral withdrawals and is currently considering one to protect the BWCA. H.R. 3905 would take this authority away from the Secretary for the Superior and Chippewa National Forests.
  • Rescinds the Antiquities Act (which allows the President to establish national monuments) for the Superior and Chippewa National Forests. Although the current president is unlikely to use this authority, the bill would rescind the authority for future presidents.

Our federal representatives need to hear that this bill is unacceptable. Please remind your representatives how much the Boundary Waters means to the Minnesota and American public.

Minnesota does not want to be singled out as the one state in the country that requires full congressional action to protect our most valued places.

If you live outside of Minnesota, use the Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121. Choose the House of Representatives, enter your zip code and you will be connected to your Representative’s office.

Contact Information: Minnesota Representatives

  • Representative Tim Walz, 1st District – (202) 225-2472
  • Representative Jason Lewis, 2nd District – (202) 225-2271
  • Representative Erik Paulsen, 3rd District – (202) 225-2871
  • Representative Betty McCollum, 4th District – (202) 225-6631
  • Representative Keith Ellison, 5th District – (202) 225-4755
  • Representative Tom Emmer, 6th District – (202) 225-2331
  • Representative Collin Peterson, 7th District – (202) 225-2165
  • Representative Rick Nolan, 8th District – (202) 225-6211

Media Coverage of H.R. 3905


  • Sulfide mines are being proposed on the edge of the BWCAW and exploration is occurring throughout the Quetico-Superior ecosystem.
  • Sulfide mining is the most toxic industry in the U.S. and has a global track record of water pollution that can’t be allowed to destroy the pristine water quality of the BWCAW
  • When citizens get organized and speak up, we can protect precious places like the Boundary Waters
  • How Minnesota responds to the first sulfide mine proposal by PolyMet Mining Corp. will influence all of the other ones that may follow.


Water is the lifeblood of the BWCAW. The lakes and rivers of the Boundary Waters connect the whole region, and pollutions that starts in part of the watershed would spread. Peer-reviewed research shows that underground sulfide mining pollution would quickly move into surface water. The geology of the BWCAW can’t buffer acid mine drainage, so the risk to the BWCA is great.

Sulfide mining interest near the BWCAW isn’t limited to a single mine proposal. Hundreds of prospecting permits have been filed for minerals near the BWCA, and thousands of acres of state and federal mineral rights have been leased. One mine proposal from PolyMet Mining has already applied for state and federal permits. Chilean mining company Antofagasta is currently suing to overturn a federal government decision to end their lease on mineral rights next to the BWCAW as part of their Twin Metals mine proposal. A number of other companies, including Teck and Kennecott/Rio Tinto hold mineral rights for sulfide mining in northern Minnesota.

Local economies depend on the pristine water quality of the Boundary Waters. Economic research conducted by Conservation Economics Institute and commissioned by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness found that Boundary Waters tourism had $77 million in economic impact in summer 2016, creating nearly 1,000 jobs in the communities nearest the BWCAW. A resilient, self-reliant economy in the Boundary Waters region depends on protecting the wilderness for future generations.


We activate citizens and help them raise their voice for the Boundary Waters. Our innovative organizing has connected tens of thousands of BWCAW users to public input opportunities to speak up for the Boundary Waters. We developed the online and in-person engagement strategies that resulted in record numbers of public comments on the PolyMet and Twin Metals mine proposals. We’ve turned out thousands of people to public hearings to speak for the BWCAW over the past five years.

We lead coalitions addressing all of the sulfide mining proposals in Minnesota. We know success on this issue will require effective collaboration between the people working to protect Minnesota from sulfide mining pollution. We co-founded Mining Truth, the coalition that launched sulfide mining from an unknown issue into one of the most hotly debated environmental issues in the history of Minnesota. We co-lead the Campaign to Defend Lake Superior responding to the threat of the PolyMet mine proposal. We’re members of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters working on Antofagasta’s Twin Metals mine proposal. Friends staff have chaired the Minnesota Environmental Partnership Mining Cluster, a group coordinating action among all of the groups addressing sulfide mining in Minnesota.

We do the research to prove the risk of sulfide mining. We commission original research (Link – economic study, Spruce Road) that analyzes the risk of sulfide mining and file detailed comments on sulfide mine proposals. We do more than shout, we do the homework needed to make a scientific and legal case that sulfide mining is too risky to be located next to the BWCAW. 



Raise your voice! The Interior Department is asking for public comments on whether they should stop leasing federal mineral rights in the Boundary Waters watershed to mining companies.

This would be a huge step toward permanently protecting the BWCA from sulfide mining pollution. This comment period end August 2017, so be sure to have your say today. Send your comment to the federal government.


We can’t do this work without your support. Our members help us spread the word, conduct original research, and allow us to hire the staff needed to keep pushing for protection of the Boundary Waters at the Minnesota and U.S. Capitols. Make a contribution today.

Some of the reasons for concern

  • Long-term acid and toxic metal water pollution — for instance, PolyMet’s mine plan shows over 500 years of polluted water needing treatment
  • Mercury contamination in fish and wildlife
  • Expensive clean-up operations often fall to taxpayers
  • Mining and associated pollution, noise, and other serious impacts in areas near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that are important tourism and recreation areas