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Proposed Copper Mining

WICOLA champions high water quality and a healthy lake ecosystem in the White Iron Chain of Lakes watershed through scientific and educational activities.

The White Iron Chain of Lakes water is clean and healthy forever. Lakeshore owners and lake users actively participate in protecting water quality. WICOLA collaborates with others to protect water quality.

Position Statement Board of Directors Approval, May 12, 2014, Membership August, 2014

WICOLA's mission and vision require us to take a position on threats to water quality in our watershed. To date, WICOLA has taken no position on mining in Northeastern Minnesota. Since Twin Metals is proceeding with a plan for copper-nickel mining located in the Kawishiwi Watershed, WICOLA's involvement is necessary.

The potential threats to water quality that will accompany this project are very like those described in the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for PolyMet's NorthMet project. PolyMet's SDEIS confirms that sulfide bearing rock and ore from copper-nickel mining and processing will, when exposed to air and water, release pollutants which necessitate treatments of that water for 200 to 500 years or more.

Pollutants include toxic heavy metals and sulfates which are harmful to wild rice and promote absorption of mercury into fish. Additional contaminants include arsenic, manganese and lead. In its SDEIS PolyMet describes extensive precautions to prevent these pollutants from leaching into the ground water. These precautions will require financial assurances that extend this protection indefinitely.

WICOLA, as a steward of the White Iron Chain of Lakes, will closely review the plans of Twin Metals and other proposed projects that potentially degrade our water environment and will act to promote clean water. WICOLA is committed to preserving the high water quality of the unique watershed we inhabit. We embrace the federal and state requirements that our chain of lakes, which flow into the BWCAW, remains pure and unpolluted.

WICOLA will continue to provide information on mining projects in our region. But because things happen quickly, you may want to look at other sources of information;

  • WaterLegacy is an award-winning nonprofit founded to protect Minnesota’s clean waters and the communities that rely on them, particularly from the threat of sulfide mining pollution in the Lake Superior and Boundary Waters watersheds.
  • Save Our Sky Blue Waters is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the waters, forests, wildlife and ecology of the Arrowhead Region and the Lake Superior basin.
  • Minnpost is an on-line, nonprofit news organization whose content is contributed primarily (but not exclusively) by professional journalists and adheres to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Minnpost news and commentary pieces are published in seven topic categories of interest. Important to mining is the topic  environment;
  • Twin Metals is a Minnesota mining company focused on designing, constructing and operating an underground copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold and silver mining project in the Iron Range region of northeast Minnesota.
  • Antofagasta is a Chile-based copper mining group with significant by-product production and interests in transportation.  Antofagasta has acquired 100% of the stock in Twin Metals.
  • Mining Minnesota works with local citizens, businesses and other organizations to bring growth and job creation to the state through responsible development of natural resources.
  • Save the Boundary Waters is leading the effort to gain permanent protection for the BWCA from the risks of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining.