Imagine you are sitting in a canoe, taking strokes while gazing out upon an endless array of lakes and rivers as far as your eye can see. Northern pines line the banks, and a loon calls every so often when it is not diving beneath the pristine water. The sun is shining down and there is cool breeze; life seems perfect. Then suddenly you hear a massive bang, followed by what sounds like pipes hammering on pipes and a drill screeching! The further you paddle the more yellow and murky the water seems to get. The peaceful wilderness experience you expected is no more.
This scenario is very possible with the proposed introduction of sulfide mining to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed. For those of you who don’t know, the Boundary Waters is a stretch of one million acres of national wilderness in Northern Minnesota. There are thousands of lakes and islands you can canoe to, and it is the most visited wilderness in the United States with over 250,000 visitors every year.
Models show the sulfide mines would cause pollutants to be carried even to the very center of the Boundary Waters, polluting the lakes and streams for centuries to come. Sulfide mining has never been allowed in Minnesota before and is much more toxic to the environment than taconite mining, which is what certain parts of Northern Minnesota are known for.
With such a large supply of fresh water at stake, along with a huge wilderness ecosystem enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, it is absurd mineral leases have already been granted by the government to taconite mining companies. Proposed mines would create an unsustainable ecosystem that is polluted and no longer the pristine place it once was. Unless we do something about it.
Right now there is a large petition to stop the mining. A whole organization, called Save The Boundary Waters, has been made to raise awareness and raise support to stop the proposed mines going in. Explorers Dave and Amy Freeman are living in the Boundary Waters for a year and tracing the path of possible pollution pathways the mining would cause. You can sign the petition by visiting savetheboundarywaters.org and can donate to help stop the mines coming in.
A couple years ago I started going to the Boundary Waters at least once a summer. It is one of the few places left on this Earth where the entire ecosystem is sustained by natural process and left largely untouched by humans (many of the visitors do not get very far into the wilderness). Taconite mining would disrupt this natural cycle of sustainability and mar such a beautiful place. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen.
Written by John Kurtz, ESLLC 2015-2016