Officials from the Chilean company that controls the Twin Metals mine proposal near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness were at work in Washington, D.C. this week. Antofagasta PLC representatives met with Senator Al Franken’s staff, Rep. Rick Nolan, and Rep. Betty McCollum.
McCollum, who is opposed to any copper-nickel mining in areas that drain toward the BWCAW, took the opportunity to reiterate her objections. After the meeting, she released a statement calling for the company to withdraw the proposal, and for Congress to ban such mining adjacent to the wilderness.
“The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park are federal lands that must be protected,” McCollum stated. “There is no evidence that sulfide-ore copper mining can be conducted in this area without permanently damaging these national treasures.”
McCollum said she is still gathering support for her legislation that would prohibit Twin Metals and any other copper-nickel mines in the Rainy River Watershed, which includes much of the BWCAW as well as Voyageurs National Park. She is also asking President Obama to take action to stop the mine.
Wilderness advocates criticized the political maneuvering, calling for the project to be judged on its merits.
“The fate of the Boundary Waters Wilderness should be determined by a modern scientific review of all potential negative impacts from sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters, not influence peddling in Washington, D.C., by a Chilean mining conglomerate and its high-price lobbyists,” Jon Nelson, a board member of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, told the Duluth News Tribune.
The Twin Metals mine would be located along the South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake, about 10 miles east of Ely, and a few miles from the edge of the Boundary Waters. In March, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared he is opposed to the proposal.