Today, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness filed a suit against the federal government. The lawsuit challenges the present administration’s arbitrary use of the law to serve the interests of a foreign-owned mining conglomerate.
For years, Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Chilean-owned mining giant Antofagasta, has been trying to open a sulfide-ore mine at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
After they applied to renew their land leases in 2012, the US Forest Service conducted an extensive review and concluded the potential risk posed by a copper-nickel sulfide ore mine within the same watershed as the BWCAW was unacceptable as it might cause irreversable harm to a unique, iconic and irreplaceable wilderness area.
Twin Metals’ application was denied and the leases expired.
The BWCAW was safe. For a time, the thousands of people whose lives have been touched and transformed by this wilderness could rest easy.
Then the 2016 elections happened. Under new leadership, the Department of the Interior ignored the contractual language and concluded no government agency could block Twin Metals from renewing their leases.
This conclusion was based on a torturous reading of the law and flat out ignored the fact that the leases could only be renewed with consent from the Forest Service.
Such an arbitrary, capricious handling of the law was done to serve the shareholders of a foreign-owned company, not the people who own the land. That is, the people of the United States.
Today we took action.
Today we said no, we will not allow greed to endanger our beloved wilderness.
For more details, feel free to take a look at the full text of the complaint.
As the midterms draw near, the Star Tribune’s editorial board called for candidates to use reason and common sense when it comes to Twin Metals’ proposed sulfide mine.
Those seeking the state’s highest offices have to do more than they’ve done in the past: reflexively tout the jobs this new industry will bring or provide vague assurances about environmental protections. Candidates instead should prove that they are committed to a state review process that is fair, expert and thorough. And that they will stand by it even if the conclusion is this: Mining cannot be done responsibly in this location.
Read the full editorial here.
We applaud Gov. Mark Dayton for vetoing HF3422 — the “Wild Rice” bill that allowed all new industries, including the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mines, to discharge untreated water that contains sulfates.
“This bill included almost nothing about keeping Minnesota waters clean,” says Chris Knopf, executive director of the Friends. “Under current law, dischargers upstream of wild rice waters have to control their sulfates. This bill, however, would have exempted the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals mines, allowing them to add sulfate pollution to our waters in clear violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
“In addition, the bill’s weak stipulations would have covered only the two-dozen ‘official’ Wild Rice Waters of the state’s 1,600 water bodies that grow rice, and it would have made it possible for lawmakers to avoid consulting the state’s tribes.
“Wild rice is Minnesota’s most iconic grain because it is so important to indigenous culture,” Knopf added. “Not allowing tribes into the discussion would have been just plain wrong.” Dayton also issued an executive order establishing a task force on wild rice that includes tribal representatives.
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness considers the governor’s action to be a significant victory in our ongoing efforts to keep the nation’s most-visited Wilderness Area pristine.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness is disappointed by yesterday’s decision by the Department of Interior to reinstate the expired mineral leases of Chilean-owned Twin Metals. The move opens the door for sulfide mining on public land at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
“For more than 40 years we have stayed true to our mission to protect, preserve and restore the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters,” says Chris Knopf, executive director of the Friends. “Reinstating Twin Metals’ mineral leases threatens the outdoor economy of northeastern Minnesota and jeopardizes the opportunity for future generations to paddle, hike, fish, hunt and camp in this remarkable landscape.”
Knopf also stated that the Friends will fight the federal government’s action in court.
With more than 200,000 visitors annually, the BWCAW is the most-visited wilderness area in the country. Founded in 1976, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has more than 3,000 members in Minnesota and across the country.