Sulfide Mining Regulation in the Great Lakes Region

Sulfide mining is well known for its negative impact on water. This analysis and the subsequent recommendations offer proactive steps to protect the water, people, and traditions of the Great Lakes Basin.

05-04-2012 // Michelle Halley

Sulfide Mining Regulations in the Great Lakes Region

A mineral rush is underway across the upper Great Lakes region. The waters, forests and wildlife of the Lake Superior basin share their homelands with deposits of copper, nickel, gold, uranium and other metals. Within a few miles of Great Lakes shoreline, one mine is already proposed, and exploration is spreading like wildfire, fueled by worldwide demand and increasing metal prices.

Download the full report, "Sulfide Mining Regulation in the Great Lakes Region:
A Comparative Analysis of Regulation in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin & Ontario"

The neighboring states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, as well as the province of Ontario, operate independently of one another when it comes to permitting, regulating, and monitoring prospective mines. And yet water is not constrained by state borders and neither are pollutants. The environmental impacts of sulfide mining in one of these jurisdictions may reach well beyond its border. Federal oversight of permitting and monitoring new mines is severely limited, but sorely needed.

With the recent boom in exploration across the Lake Superior basin, proper oversight has never been more important.

Recognizing the need for consistent review, regulation and enforcement, the National Wildlife Federation undertook an extensive examination of the laws and their implementation in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario. Specifically, we asked:

  • What regulations exist?
  • Is regulation effective?
  • How do federal statutes interact with state and provincial processes?
  • What is needed for more consistent resource protection across these jurisdictions?

Water is the most important natural resource in the Lake Superior basin and the long-term value of fresh water far outstrips that of any mineral or any mine. Sulfide mining is well known for its negative impact on water. This report's analysis and the subsequent recommendations offer proactive steps to protect the water, people, and traditions of the Great Lakes Basin.

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