Bill to Ban Copper Nickel Mining in Superior National Forest in US
US Rep Ms Betty McCollum, D-St Paul, reintroduced a bill last week that would permanently prevent copper-nickel mining within the same watershed as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The bill would ban sulfide-ore mining in the 220,000 acres of the Superior National Forest and in the Rainy River Watershed, the same watershed as the BWCAW and Voyageurs National Park. The bill would not affect the PolyMet copper-nickel mining project, which is proposed for the St. Louis River Watershed. The bill would also allow sand, gravel, granite and iron ore mining if it is not detrimental to the Rainy River Watershed's environment. The bill has the backing of environmental groups that are part of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and 35 Democratic co-sponsors.
Ms McCollum said "This bill establishes permanent federal protections where the water-rich Superior National Forest flows into the fragile ecosystem of the BWCAW, to ensure it is never polluted and poisoned from sulfide-ore copper mining. Once damaged, it would be damaged forever. Some places are simply too precious to mine.”
If passed into law, the bill would kill Twin Metals' proposed underground mine, processing plant and dry-stacked tailings storage facility proposed within the Rainy River Watershed and not far from the BWCAW. It would also reduce the amount of land that Teck's Mesaba project, which stretches into the Rainy River Watershed, could consider. Teck is still in the exploratory stages. Encampment Minerals is also exploring for minerals within the watershed.
Ms McCollum had introduced the bill last year, but it was never voted on by the House.