Sustainable Ely…Up, Running, and Making an Impact


This is a guest blog by Jerritt Johnston of Sustainable Ely.


Boundary Waters canoe petition | © Sustainable Ely

© Sustainable Ely

Urge President Obama, Congress, and Minnesota’s Governor Dayton to protect the Boundary Waters and oppose the massive Twin Metals Minnesota Mine.

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This summer, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness started a new project called Sustainable Ely to protect clean water, the Boundary Waters and our community from the threat of proposed sulfide ore mining in the Ely, Minnesota area. It has been an amazing and busy summer with shows of support for our effort coming from all directions.

The designation of the South Kawishiwi River and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as one of the 10 America’s Most Endangered Rivers® drew a lot of attention to our efforts and connected us to partners and allies interested in being part of the effort.

We opened the Sustainable Ely Education Center on Sheridan St., the main street in Ely, and welcomed visitors from around the world. Over 35 volunteers provided more than 1250 hours of service staffing the Center. Approximately 2000 people visited the Center and our booths at local festivals this summer to learn about the threat sulfide ore mining presents to the environment, the local economy and to our way of life.

The conversations were important and we have seen a change in the dialogue about this topic, locally and throughout the state. Many of our visitors have gone back to their home states and contacted their legislators about this issue. This is an extremely important aspect of our work because of the proximity of this development to a federally protected wilderness area.

While there has been opposition to our work from some local supporters of sulfide ore mining, it has been surprising and heartening to hear from so many people locally who support our work. The key for many of those individuals who live in an area with a rich history of iron ore mining—even if they or their family members have or do work in the regional taconite mines—is that they know pulling copper from sulfide rich ore bodies is a different and much more damaging type of mining.

The centerpiece of our Center is the beautiful Wenonah canoe that we have asked visitors to sign. This physical petition will be delivered to Washington, D.C. in 2014, to show the strength of the opposition to this proposed new mining. As you can see from the picture, space on the canoe is filling up fast.

We have much work yet to do to attain success, but we are off to a strong and positive start.