Just When You Think it Can’t Get Worse

My wife and I recently returned from Minnesota where we attended a wedding. We took the opportunity to travel through Northern Minnesota from Duluth, along the shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay Canada, up to Ely, the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and over to Hebbing, the epicenter of iron mining and home to one of the largest, if not the largest, open-pit iron mines in the world.

Minnesota is a beautiful state, full of history dating back to the fur trade of the 1700’s, and home to the pristine Boundary Waters, which is comprised of more than a million protected wilderness acres of lakes and forests lying along our border with Canada. It is an amazing wonder and a national treasure.

On June 26, 2019, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration has reversed the Obama administration policy and made a decision to grant a mining lease in the Boundary Waters to a massively wealthy Chilean mining company. The company, Antofagasta, is doing business in the U.S. as Twin Metals. These companies are owned by the Luksic family, one of the richest families in the world. The patriarch of the family, Andronico Luksic, made a curious decision around the time that Trump was elected. He decided to invest in Washington D.C. real estate. He bought a $5.5 million home there just as Trump was taking office. Within a week of completing the purchase, Luksic rented the house to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Less than two (2) weeks after the inauguration, the Interior Department began taking action toward leasing the Boundary Waters to Twin Metals for a copper mine. Needless to say, everyone involved assures us there is no connection, just a set of unrelated circumstances and coincidences, and much ado about nothing. Twin Metals (Antofagasta) also reassures us that their mining will be environmentally safe, even though the company has a history of toxic spills in Chile.

In 2016, Thomas Tidwell, then Chief of the United State Forest Service, warned of risks to the Boundary Waters, including leaching of toxic metals. His conclusion was that mining risked “serious harm to this unique and irreplaceable wilderness”. No one who knows the ecology of the Boundary Waters and who understands the open-pit mining process could conclude otherwise.

Theodore Roosevelt and that entire generation of dedicated conservationists, environmentalists and visionaries must be rolling over in their graves.

Make no mistake about it, all of the natural resources of the U.S. are for sale on some sort of terms. If you can mine copper in the Boundary Waters, can there be any doubt that the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay of Alaska will go forward?

Can anyone identify a single thing that Trump has done to help the environment?

For a very good read about the Great Lakes and the history of the devastating ecological mistakes we have made there, try “The Death and Life of The Great Lakes.”  Reading it will make you realize that promises about ecologically safe mining are laughable.