Top 10 Reasons To Stop Twin Metal’s Sulfide Mining Proposal (Help Protect Northern Minnesota’s Waterways, Watersheds and Wildlife From Twin Metal’s Proposed Sulfide-Ore Mine)


Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. And the Minnesota chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) has been fighting to protect northern Minnesota’s waterways, watersheds and wildlife from proposed sulfide-ore copper mines for going on a decade now.


Twin Metals is a subsidiary of Antofagasta PLC, a Chilean minerals conglomerate. Twin Metals is proposing a large sulfide mining operation southeast of Ely along the Kawishiwi River, which flows into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). In December 2016 Andronico Luksic, of the family that owns the controlling interest in Antofagasta, purchased a $5.5 million mansion in Washington, D.C. Within weeks, the mansion was rented to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.[1]


Top 10 Reasons To Stop Twin Metals

1.) 100% Failure Rate. To date, mining companies are unable to point to a sulfide mine that has ever been developed, operated and closed without producing polluted acid mine drainage (AMD) from its operations (100% failure rate). Yet studies show that the companies and state agencies reviewing mine plans consistently predict no pollution will occur during the planning and permitting process.[2]


Ely entrepreneur and educator, Paul Schurke, adds: “Proponents of the Twin Metals Mine acknowledge that it would be the first sulfide mine to operate within the watershed of a protected wilderness area. Does it make sense for the nation’s most polluting industry to operate up against the nation’s most heavily-visited and popular wilderness, the Boundary Waters?”[3]


From 2010 until 2014 alone, the EPA spent $1.1 billion on cleaning up abandoned hard rock mining and milling sites across the country. Current EPA estimates put the costs to American taxpayers of cleaning up the existing backlog of thousands of abandoned, polluting mines at well over $50 billion.[4]


2.) Water Pollution Guaranteed. As explained by Bemidji Pioneer contributor, William Smith: “Acid mine drainage is what results from bringing sulfur-bearing minerals into contact with the atmosphere. Sulfuric acid is created … There are 1,500-year-old Roman-era hard rock mines in Europe that are still producing acid mine drainage pollution today.”[5] Ron Way, former assistant Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) commissioner, adds: “Copper-nickel mining … Truth is, such mining has proved environmentally harmful, even disastrous, wherever in the world it’s been done.”[6]


Former U.S. Vice President, Walter Mondale, said: “Sulfide-ore mining has never—never—been undertaken without serious environmental consequences. Sulfide-ore mining is dangerous everywhere and most dangerous in wet environments. And the Boundary Waters is nothing if not wet. The consequences of such mining are perpetual. They will surely outlive all of us and will just as surely outlive the mining company’s pledges, promises and sureties.”[7]


The Duluth News Tribune Editorial Board added: “The Boundary Waters are a cherished resource and the basis of a thriving tourism industry. If mining can’t be done in a way that doesn’t pollute, it shouldn’t be allowed.”[8]


3.) Economic Impacts. “Copper kills jobs,” Steve Piragis, owner of Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely, told a gathering in Duluth. “In Ely, we have hundreds of people who are employed in the business of fresh water, clean water that brings people to us.”[9] Ely entrepreneur and educator, Paul Schurke, adds: Does it make sense to risk the 18,000 tourism jobs in Northeastern Minnesota that rely on our forests and fisheries–in exchange for a few hundred, short-term, non-sustainable [sulfide] mining jobs that will leave us with a degraded landscape and the tatters of a ‘boom & bust’ economy?”[10]


As explained by Thomas Power, Ph.D., Univ. of Montana Economics Department Chair: “We have hundreds of years of history with mining. It’s staring us in the face on the Iron Range or the Upper Peninsula or Butte, Montana. How is it that despite the high wages, and despite the incredible wealth pulled out of the ground, these areas are not prosperous?”[11] Between 1980 and 2000, aggregate earnings in mining-dependent counties grew at only half the rate of other American counties and per capita income grew about 25 percent slower.[12]


A 2017 study found (as reported in the 7/20/17 Duluth News Tribune) the Twin Metals mine would cost $288 million in lost visitor spending each year; 5,066 to 22,791 lost jobs; and between $402 million and $1.6 billion in lost annual income in the rest of the economy if sulfide-ore copper mining suppresses or reverses growth in the “amenity-based economy that has been the backbone of the region's recovery since the early 1980s.”[13]


According to MinnPost contributor, Ron Meador: “Eveleth is the size of Ely, and has Thunderbird mine within the boundaries of the city. The last year the state of Minnesota reported gross sales revenues, Eveleth was $41 million a year. Ely is $106 million a year. Eveleth relies on mining. Ely hasn’t had a mine since 1967. Ely’s economy, which is based fundamentally on the wilderness and a healthy national forest, would be displaced and replaced with what Eveleth has. Yes, it would be bad for our economy.”[14]


Iron Range resident, Judy Lundquist, adds: “In Ely in the summer you would think that you’re at the Mall of America there are so many people. I visit Mountain Iron on a fairly regular basis—right on the edge of a major mine. All you see is a crumbling community.”[15]


As explained by Duluth News Tribune contributor, Adam Fletcher (of the Boundary Waters Trust): “Jobs supported by the Boundary Waters are resilient and sustainable. Nationally, the outdoor economy actually grew during the Great Recession [and before], expanding by 5 percent annually from 2005 through 2011. These jobs are safe from boom-and-bust volatility and the whims of multinational mining conglomerates that have no ties to the community. Safe, that is, unless we plant an industrial sulfide mine right next door.”[16]


“In 1974 it took 35 workers to produce 1,000 tons of copper ore in a year. In 2003 seven workers could accomplish the same output. The result of modern equipment was fewer workers, higher unemployment in mining communities and few signs of prosperity.” –Editorial Board, Duluth News Tribune[17]


4.) Hunting and Fishing Impacts. Ely outfitter, Jason Zabokrtsky, said he had clients come from 44 states and nine countries in 2016 because they can catch big fish, drink water out of the lakes, watch stars at night and hear loons call. Those guests “don’t travel those distances to paddle in polluted waters or listen to mining activity,” he said.[18]


Sportsmen’s groups nationwide have been closely involved in the opposition to the Twin Metals leases. Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, said that the protection of the Boundary Waters “has turned into a national priority, not just for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, but for all sportsmen across the country.”[19]


Darrell Spencer, a sportsman and Duluth resident, said: “If allowed, sulfide-ore copper mining development in the watershed of the BWCAW would inevitably pollute surrounding lakes’ groundwater and downstream waters in the BWCAW. The development of a mine would taint the quality and reputation of the BWCAW as a hunting and fishing paradise.”[20] “Sulfide mining in that watershed will wreck thousands of outdoor sustainable jobs for short-term benefit,” said Erik Jensen, Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers co-chair.[21]


These, and many more, sportsmen’s groups have expressed opposition to sulfide mining near the BWCAW. The American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Sportfishing Association, International Federation of Fly Fishers, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, Orion-The Hunter’s Institute, Pope & Young Club, Ely Outfitting Co. & Boundary Waters Guide Service, French River Muzzleloaders, Full Curl Brand, GreenHead Productions, Hungry Jack Outfitters, Modern Carnivore, Northstar Canoes, Piragis Northwoods Company, Rapala, Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, the Upper Midwest Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers.[22]


Jason Zabokrtsky, owner of Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service, said: “I landed [a] … 29" walleye while fishing downstream of the proposed risky sulfide-ore copper mine. These mines inevitably poison surrounding waters with acid mine drainage—and that kills fish. We must defend our public waters from foreign mining giants that jeopardize our sporting heritage and the world-class fishing opportunities of the Boundary Waters.”[23]


5.) Miner’s Viewpoint. Bob Tammen, a retired Iron Range miner and Vietnam veteran from Soudan, knows that prosperity hasn’t resulted from mining for communities near the state’s heavily mined Mesabi Range. “We don’t have a healthy main street along 100 miles of the Mesabi Range,” Tammen said. “If mining brings prosperity, how come our communities don’t have it?”[24]


“The taconite tailings ponds on the Range are all leaking,” Bob adds. “There’s a more-than-100-mile dead zone for wild rice in the St. Louis River. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, mining is less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s economy. Instead of destroying our wetlands, we should diversify our Range economy.”[25]


“The coal mining industry is destroying West Virginia from the top down as it goes after dirty coal by mountain topping,” Bob said. “The copper mining industry will destroy Minnesota from the bottom up as it degrades our ground water and surface water by mining in our lakes, rivers, and wetlands.”[26]


6.) Why Not Mine Here (vs. other countries)? Some sulfide mining proponents say: “As long as we have need for pennies, electronics, copper wire in buildings and homes and everything else that uses copper … there will be a need for the metal and the mines that produce the ore. It will come from somewhere. If not in MN then where?”


As explained by the Ely Timberjay editorial board (8/23/17): “According to the pro-industry Copper Development Association, known copper reserves globally total nearly 5.8 trillion pounds and throughout all of human history we have mined just 12 percent of that total. Whether the low-grade sulfide ore found in northeastern Minnesota is mined or not will have no detectable effect on the availability of copper in the global market, which is where any copper mined in Minnesota would be headed. In either case, mining these days merely fills the gap between the metals we use and the amount we recycle. Nearly 50 percent of copper is already recycled in the U.S. and there’s room to do even more.”[27]


Bob Tammen adds: “It’s disappointing to hear fellow steelworkers talk about doing it clean here so it’s not done dirty someplace else. They ignore the leaking tailings ponds, blighted waste piles, regional haze, and mesothelioma deaths of their fellow miners. They also seem to forget our fellow miners who lost half of their pensions and all of their health care because bankruptcy courts care more about creditors than employees.”[28]


7.) Governmental Voices. As reported by St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist, Dave Orrick: “Gov. Mark Dayton said he has ‘grave concerns’ about the proposed Twin Metals underground mine near Ely. Dayton directed Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr ‘not to authorize or enter into any new state access agreements or lease agreements for mining operations’ on state lands that would be part of the proposed mine.”[29]


In fact, Dayton said the proposed Twin Metals sulfide mine “was bad for Ely, bad for Minnesota and bad for the Boundary Waters.”[30] “Not this mine, not in this place, not next to this wilderness,” Leslie Jones, former deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told the Duluth News Tribune.[31]


According to Crookston Daily Times reporter, Steve Karnowski: “The Stony River Township Board, which governs over 500 sparsely populated square miles of forest southeast of Ely, voted … to ask the state and federal governments for a moratorium on copper-nickel mining and prospecting in their area … the Eagles Nest Township Board, which represents an area west of Ely … issued its own call for a moratorium on mining and prospecting.”[32] At the DFL caucuses held during 2016, resolutions banning sulfide mining near the BWCAW were passed overwhelmingly in Ely, Morse township, Fall Lake township, Stony River township, as well as Gunflint and Tofte areas near Grand Marais.[33]


Minnesota Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen joined Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum in opposing U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s legislative attempts to facilitate sulfide mining. “The public process that is underway after hundreds of thousands of people have weighed in with their comments should not be ignored and tossed aside,” Paulsen said on the House floor, calling the Boundary Waters the Minnesota version of Yellowstone National Park, and describing it as home to some of his own best memories.[34]


“It threatens Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area,” he said. “It stops the scientific … review that’s going on right now. It weakens the Antiquities Act, and it singles out Minnesota’s national forests as not being allowed the same protections that national forests in every other state receive.”[35] “We owe it to future generations to understand the impact copper-nickel mining poses to Minnesota’s most precious water and land before we put it at risk.”[36]


“This bill undermines bedrock environmental and public land management laws in order to create a perpetual lease for a foreign-owned … mine,” added Rep. Betty McCollum. The wilderness area supports thousands of jobs and millions in economic activity, and that is at risk with the mining proposals, McCollum said. “If this bill passes, it will create an industrial wasteland along this chain of lakes and rivers, which so many people and businesses depend on. This bill poses an unacceptable risk of irreparable damage to a pristine wilderness.”[37]


8.) Recent Disasters. During August 2014, at the Mount Polley mine in Central British Columbia, 6.6 billion gallons of toxic mine tailings sluiced down into the headwaters of one of the Fraser River’s richest sockeye salmon migratory routes.[38] In 2015, the 3-million-gallon Gold King Mine blowout in Colorado turned the Animas River orange with heavy metals-laced muck.[39] During 2016, near Butte, Montana, throngs of geese landed in an abandoned sulfide mine, Berkeley Pit—a 50 billion-gallon toxic stew that is part of the nation’s largest Superfund site. At least 3,000 died.[40]


9.) Public Opinion/Polls. A March 2016 poll found that 67 percent of Minnesotans oppose sulfide mining in areas near the Boundary Waters and only 16 percent support the proposals. This majority opposition spanned the range of political leanings, as well those in the eighth Congressional District, which contains the proposed mining areas.[41] In addition, during 2016 more than 74,000 people and 200 sportsmen’s organizations, businesses, and conservation groups sent letters expressing opposition to renewing the expired Twin Metals leases.[42]


According to the March 14, 2017, Duluth News Tribune, a poll conducted by Fabrizio Ward LLC—a Republican leaning polling company used by Donald Trump’s campaign—found 72 percent of Minnesotans who responded were either very or somewhat concerned about runoff from copper mines “threatening the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior.”[43]


10.) Sportsmen’s View(s). In his day, Theodore Roosevelt spoke out vigorously against industries that, in his words, were out to “skin” the American landscape. Such is the case with foreign-owned sulfide mining conglomerates here in Minnesota. As Minnesota BHA co-chair, Erik Jensen, said: “It would be foolish to put the Boundary Waters’ future in the hands of a foreign company using hard-rock mining methods that have left irreparable harm wherever they have been tried.”[44]


As explained by Minnesota BHA board member, Lukas Leaf: “Any pollution from the proposed copper mines would flow directly into the heart of the Boundary Waters in the form of sulfuric acid and ferric hydroxide … for more than 500 years. The small upside of a few temporary jobs is far outweighed by the potential damage that could occur. To date, we have more than 74,000 signatures on our petition to stop the mines.”[45]


Additional Information:

-Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Report: 100-Plus Reasons To Protect Northern Minnesota’s Waterways, Watersheds and Wildlife From Proposed Sulfide-Ore Mining:


Also see:

-Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters:

-Friends of the Boundary Waters:

-Veterans for the Boundary Waters:

-Boundary Waters Business Coalition:


Related Press/News:

-“A Sportsman's View: D.C. learning what sportsmen already know about risks of copper mining.” Duluth News Tribune: 1/2/18.

-“Lump of coal for Minnesotans.” Grand Rapids (Minn.) Herald-Review: 12/30/17.

-“Boundary Waters Mining Ban Reversed; Minnesota BHA Pushes Back.” 12/28/17.

-“What would Teddy say (about sulfide mining)?” Grand Rapids (Minn.) Herald-Review: 12/6/17.

-“Are Minnesota’s public lands up for sale?” St. Cloud (Minn.) SCTimes: 11/28/17.

-“A Sportsman’s View: Bipartisan opposition growing to copper mining in northern Minnesota.” Duluth News Tribune: 9/28/17.

-“Sportsman’s View: Bill threatens northern Minnesota’s outdoor recreation economy.” Duluth News Tribune: 8/3/17.

-“Beware, Emmer leans toward sulfide mining near BWCA.” St. Cloud (Minn.) SCTimes: 7/1/17.

-“Rep. Nolan allies with anti-public lands politicians on sulfide mining.” Grand Rapids (Minn.) Herald-Review: 6/24/17.

-“Sportsmen: Sulfide mining puts jobs/economy at risk.” Grand Rapids (Minn.) Herald-Review: 5/17/17.

-“Sportsman’s View: Don’t trust industry on proposed copper mining.” Duluth News Tribune: 5/5/17.

-“Veteran finds healing power of wilderness in the Boundary Waters.” WTIP North Shore Community Radio: 4/2/17.

-“Sportsmen: Rep. Nolan misguided on sulfide mining.” Grand Rapids (Minn.) Herald-Review: 2/22/17.

-“Conservationist’s View: Rep. Nolan off-base on mining near BWCAW.” Duluth News Tribune: 2/18/17.

-“Boundary Waters Whitetails, Watersheds & Sulfide Mining.” Midwest Hunting & Fishing: January/February 2017, p. 30.

-“Voice your support for BWCAW.” St. Cloud (Minn.) SCTimes: 1/21/17.


[1] Jason Zabokrtsky, chair of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters. Also contributing were Steve Piragis of the Boundary Waters Business Coalition; Doug Niemela of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters; Erik Packard of Veterans for the Boundary Waters; and Ann McNally and Don Lee of Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts for the Boundary Waters. “Are Minnesota’s public lands up for sale?” St. Cloud (Minn.) SCTimes: 11/28/17.

[2] Conservation Minnesota, et al. “Frequently Asked Questions about Sulfide Mining in Minnesota.” Conservation Minnesota: May 2012.

[3] Paul Schurke. “Rebecca Otto speaking in Ely Nov. 26.” Email: 11/25/13.

[4] Editorial Board. “Mining moves: EPA decision to drop Obama-era rule risks continuing a toxic legacy.” The Cortez Journal: 12/14/17.

[5] William E. Smith. “EPA did not approve PolyMet mine plan.” Bemidji Pioneer: 7/11/14.

[6] Ron Way, former assistant Minnesota PCA commissioner. “Iron Range legislators: Cross us at your own risk.” Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: 6/22/15.

[7] Walter Mondale, former U.S. Vice President. “Walter Mondale in fighting to save the soul of Minnesota: the Boundary Waters.” Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minn.) Star Tribune: 3/11/16.

[8] Editorial Board. “Our View: Trump can undo order to change rules on mining.” Duluth News Tribune: 2/10/17.

[9] Dan Kraker. “Debate over copper mining near Boundary Waters heats up again.” MPR News: 2/2/17.

[10] Paul Schurke. “Rebecca Otto speaking in Ely Nov. 26.” Email: 11/25/13.

[11] Dan Kraker. “On the Iron Range, debating whether long-term prosperity follows more mining.” Minnesota Public Radio: 3/4/13.

[12] Conservation Minnesota, et al. “Frequently Asked Questions about Sulfide Mining in Minnesota.” Conservation Minnesota: May 2012.

[13] John Myers. “Copper critics’ study says mine could hurt economy.” Duluth News Tribune: 7/20/17.

[14] Ron Meador. “Economist say rosy mining forecasts should count costs and lost jobs, too.” 2/21/14.

[15] Judy Lundquist. “David’s article in the Duluth paper.” Email: 3/12/13.

[16] Adam Fletcher, Ely-based Boundary Waters Trust ( “Statewide View: The Boundary Waters works for everyone.” Duluth News Tribune: 12/16/16.

[17] Editorial Board. “‘Eyes wide open’ on metals mining.” Duluth News Tribune: 6/19/13.

[18] John Myers. “Duluth hearing draws supporters, critics of proposed ban near BWCAW.” Duluth News Tribune: 3/17/17.

[19] Jenny Rowland. “Proposed Mining Site Threatens America’s Most Popular Wilderness Area.” 3/9/16.

[20] Press Release. “Guided by science and public opinion, land managers say ‘no’ to proposed sulfide-ore copper mines threatening Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Wilderness.” The Wilderness Society: 12/15/16.

[21] Josephine Marcotty. “Passions run high on both sides at Duluth meeting about mining.” Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minn.) Star Tribune: 3/17/17.

[22] Scott Hed. “Please Sign On: Protect the BWCAW from Twin Metals mining threat.” Sportsman for the Boundary Waters: April 2016.

[23] Jason Zabokrtsky, Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service. “Protect Minnesota’s public lands.” Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters: 11/16/17.

[24] Ron Seely. “Most speak against mining-law changes during packed hearing in Ashland.” Duluth News Tribune: 2/10/13.

[25] Robert Tammen, former Iron Range miner. “Readers Write: Mining, Trump and North Korea, reading and math scores.” Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minn.) Star Tribune: 8/10/17.

[26] Bob Tammen. “Mining arguments fall flat one by one.” Timberjay: 11/5/10.

[27] Editorial Board. “Congressman misleads his constituents on merits of copper mining near BWCAW.” The Timberjay: 8/23/17.

[28] Bob Tammen. “Mining arguments fall flat one by one.” Timberjay: 11/5/10.

[29] Dave Orrick. “Mark Dayton moves to halt proposed Boundary Waters-area mine.” St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press: 3/7/16.

[30] Bill Hanna. “Dayton comes to the Range to discuss Twin Metals.” Mesabi Daily News: 4/4/16.

[31] John Myers. “Feds take back mineral leases from Twin Metals.” Duluth News Tribune: 12/15/16.

[32] Steve Karnowski. “Next big thing looms in Minnesota’s Iron Range.” Crookston Daily Times: 10/17/11.

[33] Keith Vandervort. “Environmental issues on the front burner in Ely.” The Timberjay: 3/9/16.

[34] Maya Rao. “Paulsen jumps into BWCA mining ban debate, backs moratorium: Paulsen breaks GOP ranks as House votes to life mining ban.” Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minn.) Star Tribune: 9/9/17.

[35] Timothy Cama. “House votes to overturn Obama mining ban in Minnesota.” The Hill: 11/30/17.

[36] Maya Rao. “Paulsen jumps into BWCA mining ban debate, backs moratorium: Paulsen breaks GOP ranks as House votes to life mining ban.” Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minn.) Star Tribune: 9/9/17.

[37] Timothy Cama. “House votes to overturn Obama mining ban in Minnesota.” The Hill: 11/30/17.

[38] Morgan Sparks. “Southeast Alaska-British Columbia Transboundary Region.” Backcountry Journal: Spring 2015, p. 5.

[39] Bruce Finley. “230 Colorado mines are leaking heavy metals into state rivers.” The Denver Post: 8/16/15.

[40] Matt Volz. “Brimming Berkeley Pit nears critical level after bird deaths.” Great Falls Tribune: 1/23/17.

[41] Jenny Rowland. “Proposed Mining Site Threatens America’s Most Popular Wilderness Area.” 3/9/16.

[42] Press Release. “Guided by science and public opinion, land managers say ‘no’ to proposed sulfide-ore copper mines threatening Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Wilderness.” The Wilderness Society: 12/15/16.

[43] John Myers. “Poll shows opposition to mine near BWCAW.” Duluth News Tribune: 3/14/17.

[44] Erik Jenson, Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers co-chair. “Voice your support for BWCAW.” St. Clout Times: 1/21/17.

[45] Lukas Leaf, Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers board member. “Boundary Waters Walleye Puttanesca.” The Backcountry Journal: Fall 2016, p. 17.

About Minnesota BHA Chapter

Minnesota BHA seeks to ensure our North American heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting on wild, public lands and waters through education, advocacy, and boots on the ground work.

See other posts related to Minnesota BHA Minnesota Issues Minnesota news