The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a unique treasure in northern Minnesota. The 1.1 million acre Wilderness is characterized by its interconnected lakes and rivers and uninterrupted forests. The Boundary Waters includes 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak routes, 237.5 miles of overnight hiking trails and 2,000 designated campsites. Several sensitive wildlife species make the Wilderness their home, including the gray wolf, moose, Canada lynx and loon.
As America’s most visited Wilderness Area, the Boundary Waters is the economic lifeblood of northeastern Minnesota's lucrative tourism industry. The Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park help drive the economy of northeastern Minnesota, where tourism supports nearly 17,000 jobs and brings $850 million in sales annually to the region (Explore Minnesota).
Risks Facing the Wilderness
This amazing landscape is threatened by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining from Twin Metals and other companies owned by foreign mining giants. This type of mining has never been done before in Minnesota and has never been done safely.
The proposed mining sites are upstream from the Wilderness. The toxic pollution could drain into and permanently pollute lakes and rivers lying in the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Mining activity would also likely fragment and reduce the acreage of forest surrounding the Wilderness while disrupting sensitive wildlife habitats.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified hard rock mining, of which sulfide-ore copper mining is part, as the most toxic industry in America. Byproducts of sulfide-ore copper mining include hazardous pollutants such as sulfuric acid and heavy metals, which are harmful to wildlife and people, and could permanently ruin the pristine water and unspoiled forests of the Boundary Waters. Similar mines like the one at Mount Polley in British Columbia or Gold King Mine in Colorado have had catastrophic spills in recent years.
Additionally, independent scientific research shows that sulfide-ore copper mines in this watershed would have lasting damaging results. “If sulfide mines are developed in the Rainy Headwaters [part of the Boundary Waters watershed], it is not a question of whether, but when, a leak will occur that will have major impacts on the water quality of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness,” said hydrologist Tom Myers.