Wilderness water and mining woes focus of mini-documentary


A new report renews focus on the Trump administration’s efforts to promote mine proposals near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

In a 10-minute story from national media organization Vox.com, reporters Laura Bult and Liz Scheltens share the current status of the effort to open up the proposed Twin Metals mine on the South Kawishiwi River. The piece features interviews, research, and beautiful footage of the Superior National Forest. As of this writing, it has been viewed more than 800,000 times on YouTube.

The report portrays the conflict as part of a broader move by the current administration to open up public lands to resource extraction, including oil and gas in other parts of the country. It also depicts the debate as falling along familiar dividing lines.

“The Trump administration has opened up America’s public lands to mining and fossil fuel companies on an unprecedented scale, lifting decades-long protections from millions of acres of wilderness across the country.,” Vox says in the video description. “In Minnesota, one proposed copper mine is pitting neighbors against each other as they weigh the benefits of new mining jobs against the environmental consequences of a new mines. It’s an old American debate that’s been further complicated here by an unforgiving reality: We need copper, and there are not that many places to get it.”

Ely Outfitting Co. owner and wilderness advocate Jason Zabokrtsky, retired miner and Twin Metals opponent Bob Tammen, and other mine opponents are featured in the story. Andrea Zupancich, the mayor of Iron Range town Babbitt, is the primary voice promoting the mine. Dean DeBeltz of Twin Metals also explains the company’s ongoing core drilling and analysis operation. Zabokrtsky says the issue is existential for his business, and the wilderness.

“This proposed mine really puts the sustainable wilderness edge economy that we have going right now at risk,” he says. “And it definitely puts businesses like mine at risk.”

Responding to this summer’s announcement by Twin Metals that it will use “dry stack technology” to store its mine waste if permitted, the video shares data and documents that show a mine using dry stacking in Alaska, which Twin Metals previously pointed to as a good example, is spreading lead into the surrounding lands and waters through airborne dust. Other toxic chemicals were found in the groundwater.

Speaking in favor of mining, Mayor Zupancich tells the reporter that “good jobs,” which include benefits and the ability to save for retirement, are in short supply. She believes the mine will change that.

Vox.com was founded in 2014 with an emphasis on “explanatory journalism.”

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