Protect Our Public Lands

Permanent protection for the Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act will permanently protect Minnesota lands and waters from harmful mining activity.

U.S. Forest Service | Public Domain

Rep. Betty McCollum’s Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act will permanently protect more than 234,000 acres of federal land and waters in the Rainy River Watershed from mining. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness includes nearly 2,000 lakes and 1,500 cultural sites. Included in this rich environment are historic Ojibwe villages, Native American pictograph panel sites and a plethora of flora and fauna.

The Boundary Waters and parts of the Superior National Forest sit on top of a unique geologic feature called the Duluth Complex. This band of igneous rocks hosts one of the world’s largest deposits of iron and sulfide ores, containing copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, and other associated metals and has been mined continuously over the past 120 years. 

Mining of sulfide minerals can produce toxic pollution. These operations produce a sulfuric acid byproduct created when the minerals are exposed to air or water. This acid mine drainage decreases water pH, leeches harmful metals, and can cause extremely damaging downstream effects. Specifically, acid runoff from sulfide-ore copper mining can harm fish and animals that live in or near the water, significantly degrade water quality, and cause toxic soil contamination. And most mines pollute. In fact, a peer-reviewed study done by Earthworks found that of the 14 copper-sulfide mines responsible for 89% of copper production in 2010, 100% of them experienced pipeline spills or other accidental releases of sulfuric acid. We must protect these important lands and waters from this fate. Last year, the Department of the Interior protected this area for 20 years. This bill aims to make those protections permanent. 

We urge members of Congress to vote for this bill.

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