Today, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that he would cancel the application for a proposed 20-year mining ban on 234,000 acres of federal lands in the Superior National Forest. This mineral withdrawal would have protected the Rainy River watershed and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide mining.
Along with impacting the hundreds of thousands of individuals who visit the Boundary Waters each year, this decision will hurt the thousands of people whose livelihoods and economic wellbeing has been built on a thriving outdoor recreation economy in the region.
In a public statement, Perdue says, “It’s our duty as responsible stewards of our environment to maintain and protect our natural resources. At the same time, we must put our national forests to work for the taxpayers to support local economies and create jobs.”
Ironically, this statement and the federal government’s action comes only days after an economic analysis from Harvard Universityfound overwhelming evidence that opening the region to mining would, in the long run, hurt the regional economy.
By ignoring science, economic studies, disregarding the overwhelming public support of the mining ban made during the comment periods and not allowing the environmental assessment study to be completed, one has to wonder: What prompted this decision?
Today, the Trump administration did a huge favor to Twin Metals and other foreign mining companies who will profit off our public land, pollute a unique ecosystem and harm the thriving economy built around this wilderness.
What does this mean going forward?
The 20-year mineral withdrawal would have been one of the most effective ways to protect the Boundary Waters from the devastating effects sulfide-ore mining.
Currently, there are several dozen federal prospecting permits in place and even more pending review. This means that in the coming years we will have several more Twin Metals and Poly Met-sized fights.
Northeastern Minnesota is blessed with incredible beauty.
That beauty is worth protecting.