Protect The Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northeastern Minnesota is threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining.

South Kawishiwi and River Point Resort by Brad Carlson

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) is America’s most visited Wilderness. The Boundary Waters consists of 1.1 million acres of interconnected waterways, uninterrupted forests and diverse wildlife. This glacially carved landscape attracts over 155,000 each year, many who seek relaxation, solitude and adventure. The Boundary Waters is made up of unique rock formations, expansive boreal forests, and a vast network of clean lakes and rivers to paddle through and portage to. It has 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak routes, 237.5 miles of overnight hiking trails and 2,000 designated campsites. Outdoor recreationalists from around the world seek out the Boundary Waters for paddling, fishing, hiking, camping, observing
wildlife, seeking solitude and enjoying the incredible scenery.

The Threat

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining. Twin Metals LLC. – the wholly owned subsidiary of Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta – is proposing a sulfide-ore copper mining on the edge of the Wilderness and within its watershed. Sulfide-ore copper mining is considered to be the most toxic industry in America and has no place next to the Wilderness.

Mount Polley Tailings Pond Breach by Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press.
Curtesy of Save the Boundary Waters

These proposed mines would pollute the Boundary Waters and negatively impact the stable and sustainable economy of Wilderness edge communities. By products of sulfide-ore copper mining include hazardous pollutants such as sulfuric acid and heavy metals, which are harmful to wildlife and people. This type of mining has never been done before in Minnesota and never been done safely, and would permanently ruin the Boundary Waters. The track record of this type of mining worldwide is abysmal, and the Boundary Waters shouldn’t be put at risk.

Carol Stoker, NASA
Curtesy of Save the Boundary Waters

What’s happening right now?

In May of 2019, the Department of the Interior and its agency the Bureau of Land Management renewed two mineral leases for sulfide-ore copper mining next to the Boundary Waters. These leases were originally denied under the Obama Administration in December of 2016. With these leases in hand, Twin Metals now has a clear path to submit a mine plan to state and federal agencies.

Mining activities include exploratory drilling, hydrogeological drilling, road building, construction of mining facilities, and the extraction of minerals for the profit of Antofagasta. The clean water and sensitive ecosystem of the Boundary Waters should never be put at risk.

A growing movement

The Boundary Waters is woven into the fabric of Minnesota’s traditions and is a key economic driver for thousands of people across Northeastern Minnesota. According to polling, 70% of Minnesotans oppose sulfide-ore copper mining near the edge of the Boundary Waters. These results show Minnesotans’ continued and growing passion for protecting the Boundary Waters.

Image by Nate Ptacek

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is leading the effort to ensure permanent protection for the Boundary Waters. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, led by Ely-area residents and business-owners, launched the Campaign in 2013. This movement has grown to include more than 350 businesses, conservation organizations, hunting and angling groups, and veterans, public health, youth, faith and university groups. Over 300 businesses have joined the Boundary Waters Business Coalition showing support for permanent protection of the Boundary Waters, from Ely-based outfitters to major outdoor retailers.

How you can help

The next few months will be a critical time for you to speak loudly for this quiet place. A mine plan will be submitted and the clock will start ticking. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters needs your support to convince elected officials to do the right thing. The Boundary Waters cannot be protected without your help.

Visit to learn how you can get involved.

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