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Lake Detroiters Association

MAP - Twin Metals


2013 - - Two huge copper-nickel mining projects are under consideration in northern Minnesota, which holds one of the world’s largest untapped copper deposits. Better technology, together with rising copper prices the past decade, are making large scale metals mining cost-effective here and potentially very lucrative. One company, PolyMet, wants to build an open pit operation to mine copper and other metals. Another venture, Twin Metals, plans a massive, largely underground mine southeast of Ely — a company official has likened it to an “underground city” — stretching near the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Minnesota does have strong environmental regulations in place. These regulations have been under pressure. Water quality standards related to wild rice have been threatened in the state legislature. Minnesota’s strong clean air and energy standards have been severely challenged in an effort to allow more dirty coal burning.

While many agree on the importance of “doing it right,” the big question hanging in the air in Ely is how to ensure that it is done right. Minnesota has strong environmental regulations, and mining supporters including corporate executives say that the mining companies would “meet or exceed” these environmental standards. Corporations do not meet environmental standards because they want to, they do so because, by law, they have to.

Northern Minnesota wants to have jobs AND clean water. The only way to have jobs AND clean water is to keep these strong environmental standards in place.

This segment addresses the Twin Metals project:

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Lake Detroiters Association (LDA) is a member of MN Coalition of Lake Associations (MN COLA) thru the Becker County COLA affiliate membership.  MN COLA convened a Board of Directors meeting in St. Paul February 19, 2014 and scheduled "Get Smart" sessions on non-ferrous Mining.  Attorney, Becky Rom, was a keynote speaker.  Becky has specific intersts in public land use and wildlife protection.  She has served on the governing council of the WIlderness Society, chaired the board of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness for 17 years, was active in Alaska Wilderness league and most recently reitred as President of the Twin Cities Community Land Bank.  More information on the non-ferrous mining activitities she spoke about at the Twin Metals site in NE Minnesota.  The following information was provided at the "Get Smart" session:


Multinational mining companies, including Twin Metals Minnesota, seek to develop large copper-nickel mines at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness along the South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake, whose waters drain into the Boundary Waters. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the oldest and largest wilderness areas in our national wilderness preservation system, and more people visit the Boundary Waters every year than any other wilderness in the system. Sulfide-ore mines (copper-nickel) proposed in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters would pollute clean drinking water and clean air, and damage the surrounding forest. The mines would negatively impact nearby private property; river and lake shore properties along the South Kawishiwi River, Birch Lake, and downstream lakes leading to the Boundary Waters are valued at $318 million. Twenty-six wilderness resorts, camps, and campgrounds are located near proposed mining sites and are directly in the path of water pollution.

Sulfide-ore mining has an unbroken record around the world of land destruction and extensive pollution of water and land by acid mine drainage and heavy metal leaching.  This type of pollution is harmful to human health. Such mining, like coal mining and iron mining, leaves a boom-and-bust legacy of polluted and impoverished communities. Sulfide-ore mines frustrate efforts to diversify local economies with stable and sustainable businesses. An important recreational area of the Superior National Forest would be converted to a massive industrial mining zone. Studies show that property values drop near mines (and are higher near wilderness areas). 

Boundary Waters lakes are uniquely vulnerable to acid mine drainage because of the environment does not contain base compounds like calcium carbonate that might otherwise buffer acid.  The interconnectedness of wetlands, rivers, and lakes means that the damage to water and land would be widespread. Lost would be nearly all fish species and aquatic plants, clean drinking water for residents and visitors, and a sustainable wilderness-edge economy.

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) is building a national coalition of organizations and individuals to protect the Boundary Waters from this major threat. 

Please visit the website at and NMW and Sustainable Ely Facebook pages.  For more information, e-mail NMW at