The Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota is one of the last untouched natural beauties in the world. The BWCA is the premier destination for people to get away from the concrete jungle that is modern civilization.
The PolyMet mining corporation of Canada aims to open a precious metals sulfide mine in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota near the BWCA. If opened, the potential for sulfide pollution is practically guaranteed, as shown by sulfide mines in the past. Sulfide mining in the BWCA must never be attempted due to the potential for pollution, deforestation and species endangerment. The short-term economic gain is not worth permanent damage to the land and lakes of northern Minnesota.
Sulfide mining is the process of drilling through waste rock on the surface to reveal sulfide-bearing materials. Once sulfide is revealed, ore such as copper and nickel rests inside. Metals such as platinum, palladium, and gold also have a chance of being revealed. The potential for precious metals is what is so appealing to mining companies such as PolyMet, as copper prices reached an all-time high in 2011. The potential profits of the project are enough to make President Donald Trump, Jeff Johnson and other Republican lobbyists enthusiastic.
The issue they fail to address, however, is how detrimental it is to lakes and streams in the surrounding area. The exposed sulfide rock, when rained on, discharges minerals into the surrounding rainwater, creating sulfuric acid. When collected in rainwater the runoff into streams and lakes causes damage to the water quality. Once the water quality is damaged, detriment toward fish species and drinking water for the surrounding area is almost guaranteed.
If this kind of mining were allowed to occur within any vicinity of the lakes in the BWCA, the habitat loss would be immense. Towering trees reduced to mulch and dirt. Streams become oily pits. A loss in habitat of any modicum is a tragedy when considering this historic area. Imagine if your favorite campground or hiking trail was torn apart for mining purposes. All of a sudden, a key part of your summer memories no longer exists. For residents of Hoyt Lakes, this proposal hits home, as their once quiet and serene forest town is now open to new noise pollution that many residents live up there to get away from. Once the Boundary Waters are deforested, no place feels sacred.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources just green-lighted this project, and that means the area will never be the same for future generations such as myself. The BWCA is more than just home to thousands of species of wildlife on thousands of acres of land. It is home to the spirit of the rugged individual. A spirit that is too often lost in the chaos of a technology-driven world. With how much opposition to the mine there is already, the risks far outweigh benefits for anyone but PolyMet and its shareholders. Do not be coerced into believing this is an extension of the American Dream, because there is no dream if our grandchildren don’t have clean drinking water in the land of 10,000 lakes. All it takes is five minutes of your time to sign a petition. Vote blue this Tuesday, no matter the candidate. If PolyMet doesn’t see the importance of preserving land untouched for millions of years, we do. The voice of the people will always prevail.
This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.
Paul Thompson-Nelson is a College of Liberal Arts freshman at the University of Minnesota.