Minneapolis — At a Canoe Rally on the banks of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis on Saturday, activists rallied to raise awareness about the threat posed by sulfide mining proposals near the Boundary Waters. The event, organized by Environment Minnesota, a citizen based environmental organization, included volunteers and supporters canoeing and collecting “photo-petitions’ from others gathered at the lake this weekend.
Organizers also have concerns about the impact of mining pollution on the region’s economy, since pollution could keep people from visiting the clean lakes and forests in the Arrowhead region. The Minneapolis event was planned in coordination with the Grand Opening of Sustainable Ely’s Education and Action Center in downtown Ely. The northern Minnesota event included canoeing on the Kawishiwi River, portaging through Ely, and an evening gathering at the new downtown headquarters. Local citizens launched Sustainable Ely this summer – their mission is “protecting clean water, healthy communities, and the Boundary Waters.”
The Boundary Waters is one of the most beloved places in the state. This pristine wilderness area is home to unique species, beautiful forests and clean clear lakes. It’s also the most popular wilderness area in the country, with more than 250,000 visitors every year who canoe, fish, camp, and hike. There are few places Minnesotans hold as dear, and citizens have worked for years to establish and protect it.
The proposed sulfide mining could irrevocably change this beautiful area. Sulfide mining companies claim they can avoid pollution, but every other mine like this has been unable to do so. Across the country, significant problems relating to pollution have been seen, and cleaning up the mess from these mines is extremely costly, difficult, and often impossible. Mining near the Boundary Waters would also negatively affect citizens who make their living off of the tourism trade as outfitters, or own businesses in the area. Mining could decrease the number of visitors and cause a downturn in the local economy. The mining companies that are proposing these mines are tied to huge mining conglomerates, financed by foreign corporations, and thus have a lot of political clout.
Mining interests have opposed legislative efforts designed to protect the environment or hold mining companies accountable for cleanup costs. They have also worked to expedite the proposed PolyMet sulfide mine, which recently released its new, revised proposal, despite significant environmental concerns. Last year, the US Congress considered a land-exchange bill designed to bypass important environmental review processes and open the Superior National Forest to sulfide mining and other development.
Environment Minnesota is working with a large coalition of conservation groups and thousands of citizens. The group will be knocking on tens of thousands of doors and having face-to-face conversations and collecting petitions from thousands of people this summer.