Proposed Copper Mining

It is the vision of WICOLA to see that the water of White Iron, Farm and Garden lakes remain clean and pure forever. A beautiful place to live and visit. A safe place to swim, boat and fish. A lake system where the recreational users are courteous and responsible to each other and the residents of its shores. An area where everyone will work together for the common good of the community.

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;

  • Water Legacy is a grassroots citizen’s group “formed in response to the threat of the 1st Sulfide Mine proposed in Minnesota.” This non-profit has a Duluth address. In 2012 it received an Environmental Stewardship award, and in 2013 the Headwaters Foundation for Justice spotlighted them for collaboration with tribes and other allies for clean water. In 2014 Water Legacy along with the Fon du Lac and Grand Portage Bands and the MN Center for Environmental Advocacy were successful in their lawsuit against the EPA which overturned the variance granted to Mesabi Nugget.
  • Save Our Sky Blue Waters is a Duluth based non-profit “dedicated to protecting the waters, forests, wildlife and ecology of the Arrowhead regions and the Lake Superior Basin.” Their information-rich website has links to just about everybody else who is concerned with this same subject. The Center for Science in Public Participation listed as a resource as well as a link. In addition to current happenings SOS provides short fact sheets on important topics. I fault the fact sheets only for not bearing dates. On their home page scroll down to Fact Sheets on the left.
  • is an on-line, nonprofit news organization. Its 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 subject to editorial review and published in seven topic categories of interest. Important to this topic is;
  • is produced by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Conservation Minnesota and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and reflects their environmental stands.
  • Twin Metals is the local company likely to be operating the mine in the Kawishiwi Watershed. Their web site provides basic information about the company and its operations. Twin Metals was originally a subsidiary of Duluth Metals, now Antofagasta.
  • Duluth Metals is the Canadian company which originated current mining plans in the Kawishiwi Watershed. While it was recently acquired by one of its partners its website provides valuable information.
  • Antofagasta operates worldwide, is based in Chile, and is one of the world’s largest conglomerates. They had owned 40% of the Duluth Metals stock and have now acquired 100% of the stock and the subsidiary Twin Metals.
  • Mining Minnesota is a relatively new site. The web site of this for profit organization says they are a “diverse coalition of organizations, companies and individuals committed to sustainable and environmentally responsible critical and strategic metals mining discovery.” The home page offers the tab “Who we are”; on the right hand side of that page is information about their Executive Director. Also, the tab “Friends of Mining Minnesota “is found on the far right of the banner. It yields a very long list of supporters; it is worthwhile to look over the list. On their home page banner is the tab “Environmental Responsibility.” On that page scroll down the right side to “What about Acid Rock Drainage”; there is a very comprehensive description of acid rock.

Contact Us

White Iron Chain of Lakes Association
PO Box 493
Ely, MN 55731


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