The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a vast network of waterways including the Kawishiwi River in Northeastern Minnesota. The South Kawishiwi River is currently threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining from Twin Metals Minnesota on the very edge of the Boundary Waters.
The Boundary Waters
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the most visited wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System. This glacially carved landscape attracts over 155,000 visitors each year for its world-class paddling, fishing, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and incredible scenery. The Boundary Waters is made up of unique rock formations, expansive boreal forests, and a vast network of clean lakes and rivers to paddle through and portage to. It has 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak routes, 237.5 miles of overnight hiking trails and 2,000 designated campsites.
The South Kawishiwi River is an important gateway into the Boundary Waters. It flows through the heart of the Wilderness and has three popular entry points for paddlers. The river flows outside of the Wilderness through Birch Lake, re-enters the Boundary Waters downstream, and then flows into Voyageurs National Park and Ontario’s Quetico Park.
Twin Metals Minnesota has proposed a sulfide-ore copper mine along the South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake. Toxic pollution from sulfide-ore copper mining could drain into and permanently pollute lakes and rivers in the Boundary Waters for hundreds of years, disrupting the surrounding ecosystem. This risky type of mining has never been done in the state of Minnesota, and has never been done safely. Byproducts of sulfide-ore copper mining include hazardous pollutants such as sulfuric acid and other heavy metals, which are harmful to wildlife and people, and could have devastating impacts to the Boundary Waters.
This year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act. On October 21, 1978, Jimmy Carter signed the act into law, protecting 1.1 million acres of interconnected lakes and rivers, uninterrupted forests and diverse wildlife. To celebrate this milestone, Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed October 21, 2018, as Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Day.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration recently opened up the Superior National Forest to foreign mining companies, ignoring facts and science. On September 6, 2018, Administration officials announced that the application for a mining ban, which would have protected Northeastern Minnesota’s pristine lakes and rivers from copper-nickel mining, was cancelled. The Administration did not complete a promised study on the social, economic and environmental harm that sulfide-ore copper mining would do to the Wilderness. There is no indication the required environmental assessment was ever completed nor was it ever put out for public comment, which is normal practice.
The Boundary Waters is a national icon that has some of the cleanest water in the world. The Wilderness is major economic driver for Northern Minnesota. The cancelled environmental study would have analyzed the threats and costs to the community posed by sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the wilderness.
We must continue to put pressure on the Trump Administration and Congress to protect the Boundary Waters so that all can continue to enjoy this special, wild place.
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters was organized by local residents in and around Ely, Minnesota, who are dedicated to creating a national movement to protect the clean water, clean air and forest landscape of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its watershed from toxic pollution caused by mining copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide-bearing ore.