Your Guide to Ely, Canoe Country & the BWCAW – Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Ely Minnesota > Ely News > Sulfide Minings > Sulfide Mining In or Near the BWCA

Sulfide Mining In or Near the BWCA

The BWCA is facing a major turning point in its history and needs level heads and calm minds to determine the proper way to proceed. We are faced with the contentious issue of non-ferrous sulfide mining in or near the lakes and streams of the BWCA. The EIS was released this week and the countdown for public comment has begun. It is very important that we let our thoughts be known and get all questions on the table.

The Polyment Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released this week, October 26, 2009

Test drilling done to date by mining companies has determined that there are recoverable amounts of copper and nickel in the sulfide ores in our area. We have the possibility of some new mining jobs coming into our area. Our area has also been hit hard by the recent economic downturn and new jobs would be dearly welcomed. However, this is just one piece of a very complex puzzle that needs to be considered if the results we desire are to include maintaining the natural beauty and present day, at a minimum, functionality of the BWCA.

This area is known for its iron mines and long history of supporting the mining industry. The process of mining copper and nickel are so different from the process of mining iron ore that we, as residents of this area, and anyone who values the BWCA and their experiences here, must look carefully at the downside of sulfide mining and the likelihood of “acid mine drainage” into the BWCA.

I have found no one against mining or bringing new jobs into our area. Everyone would like to see economic development, prosperity and the new jobs that a new business would bring to our area. However, many of these same people are understandably unwilling to sacrifice the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and clean water for those same jobs.

In the next few weeks, we will attempt to gather facts from any and all sides of this issue and let you know what is happening here. If you have ever been to Ely or the BWCA, know someone who has or know of someone who might someday want the same opportunity to enjoy the BWCA as you have, please let them know and ask them to participate in the discussion. Let your thoughts and feelings be known, email us with your thoughts questions or concerns. If you ask a question we don’t know how to answer or don’t have the facts to be able to answer properly, we will find someone involved with the process that will. If you prefer contact the stakeholders directly.

For starters check out the following links to learn what Sulfide Mining is and some history of the effects of Sulfide Mining. Then do a search for “acid mine drainage” on Google and see what you find. Then do a search on Google for “safe sulfide mining” and see what you find. What do you think?

Please visit as many of the resources listed as possilbe until you are comfortable with your understanding of the difference between iron mining and copper hard rock sulfide mining. They are not the same, they are not even similar, except for taking a mineral out of the ground. The economics, processing and environmental effects are like night and day in their differences. We think you will be surprised at what you find.

Contact Us

ElyMinnesota.com’s Sulfide Mining Blog

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness

Save Our Sky Blue Waters

Acid Mine Drainage and Effects on Fish Health and Ecology

Wikipedia Article on Acid Mine Drainage

One response to “Sulfide Mining In or Near the BWCA”

  1. Joe says:

    No mining of this scale has been done in Ely, or as near to Ely as the new proposed mine is, since 1967 when the Pioneer Mine closed. To say that the town can still run on mining, when anyone who has any experience in mining has most likely relocated to Virginia, Hibbing and the like (if not already retired), is ridiculous. Virtually no one there knows how to mine, so the jobs would be given to others who know how to mine and would then relocate to Ely or Babbitt. The mine is supposed to last roughly 20 years. After it is gone you will once again have a remnant “boom population” that will have no jobs and will be just as poor as they are now. Sure, for 20 years the town will do well but then what? Towns grow and towns decline. My opinion is that mining is not the answer for Ely or Babbitt. I am not saying that recreation and tourism is, but St Louis County and the rest of the Arrowhead could be looking into their timber industry. It is economically more sustainable over a longer period of time and has less potential for the destruction of the watersheds that the whole tourism “fall back” rests on. Not a huge immediate economical increase as with mining but instead you would have a way of keeping some full time jobs longer, with small bursts of short term jobs. If proper tree harvest rotations were done it could yield a steadier flow of revenue for the region. Especially if we opened a few more timber mills.

    We can mine for anything and be safe in the short term but the costs of this mine will greatly outweigh the benefits when the dams break and all the slag waste drains into one of the cleanest and purest water sources in the country. Its never an if but a when. The containers will break, the technology will fail, fish will die, water too toxic to drink, rivers turn yellow or orange, algae blooms choke out the oxygen killing more fish and the tourism will die when all that happens. The companies will not remain around to maintain their containers or dams.

    Maybe the town just needs to decline/shrink until its sustainable and people can do what they have always done and move to where the jobs are. Maybe the world needs a shift in ideals, I don’t know. Ely is beautiful and I love the region.

    As for the argument that “all mining is bad,” I agree that they are wrong. We have made some great advances, and yet those advances have cost us lives. Is this the mine’s fault? No. No one should be saying that the technology that is gained from mining is bad or good just that the processes of mineral extraction are faulty and sometimes are not worth the risk.

    It is a complicated subject and without proper diligence in negotiating through the costs and benefits mistakes are easily made. Desperate decisions usually overlook the consequences whether they be long or short term.

    -Iron Ranger/Vermilion Grad.

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