With an estimated $1 trillion worth of copper and other precious metals buried beneath the surface along the South Kawishiwi River near the southern border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the tangle over mineral development and natural resource protection appears likely to continue well beyond those surrounding the PolyMet copper-nickel mine in nearby Babbitt, MN.
Minnesota Public Radio covered the story last week. You can read or listen to their story HERE.
The Duluth News Tribune wrote about the story as well, HERE.
The Ely-based company, Duluth Metals, with the backing of Chilean Mining giant Antofogasta has probed the area along Spruce Road and has found a rich deposit of copper, nickel and precious metals in the earth. Mining proponents say the deposit is an important domestic metal source which has the potential to provide hundreds of jobs.
Environmental advocates are concerned that mining the metals could do serious damage to water quality and the pristine nature of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The sought-after metals occur in sulfide rock, which can acidify water when not handled properly. The surface water above the Duluth Metals deposit flows across the Boundary Waters.
While environmental permitting for a mine in the area is estimated to be three years into the future, the need for metals and local jobs will likely battle against the protection of the water quality in the country’s most visited wilderness area in the years to come.