A Miner’s Take on Mining the Boundary Waters
Today’s guest blog about the #6 Boundary Waters- a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series- is from Bob Tammen, a retired miner living in Soudan, Minnesota. Bob and his wife are regular paddlers of the South Kawishiwi River, where copper-nickel mines have been proposed.
My wife, Pat, and I stopped by the South Kawishiwi River last week. The river current is starting to take out the ice in the narrows, and in a few days we’ll have a canoe in the water again.
We see evidence of exploratory drilling for copper-nickel mines, but spring load limits are on some of the roads so we won’t see the big rigs moving for a few days. So far, the drilling has confirmed that the Duluth Complex is a low grade ore body in a high grade environment— Superior National Forest.
Pat and I just attended a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency meeting concerning the damage done to wild rice by sulfates. We’ve already sacrificed a tremendous amount of wild rice waters to contamination from sulfide ore mining [PDF]. For example, there is documentation that the Dunka Mine is discharging sulfates that end up in the South Kawishiwi River.
Our existing mining industry likes to brag about the millions they pay to the State of Minnesota in taxes, but when you calculate those numbers as a percent of ore shipped, it only amounts to three percent.
Minnesota has sacrificed much and received little from the mining industry. There is no reason to believe the copper mining industry will be more financially generous or less environmentally damaging that the iron mining industry.
The University of Minnesota Duluth study entitled The Economic Impact of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Mining (November 2012) [PDF], states that more indirect and induced jobs dependent on mining are created in the Duluth Metro Area than in the Arrowhead Region. Many of the jobs aren’t being created where the environment is being destroyed. We’re being set-up as an economic and environmental sacrifice zone.
When I first started canoeing the Kawishiwi River over forty years ago, there were drill rigs exploring along Spruce Road. They eventually went away and most of the scars have healed. Now we have a new generation of drillers, and an old tradition of environmental stewardship. The drillers have public relations consultants. We have values. It’s time to defend the Kawishiwi.