Interior Makes 'Abominable Decision' to Renew Expired Mining Leases in Headwaters of Pristine Boundary Waters

Washington, DC — The Department of the Interior’s decision today to renew mining leases in the headwaters of the Rainy River Watershed which flow into Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness within Superior National Forest would irreparably harm the area's incredible wildlife and water. The National Wildlife Federation called the Interior Department’s decision an “abominable decision” that also would undermine "world-class camping, hiking, paddling, fishing, and hunting that depend up on the magnificent Boundary Waters."

“Is no place sacred? This abominable decision to reissue expired permits for sulfide-ore copper mining in a place so pristine you cannot use a motorized boat shows the depths of the Department of the Interior’s imbalance towards mining at all costs, conservation of irreplaceable resources be damned,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We are not opposed to mining, but this is absolutely the wrong mine in the wrong place. Before this precious ecosystem is degraded forever, we urge the Congress to correct this devastating decision that will inevitably contaminate habitat for hundreds of wildlife species and threaten hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact from the world-class camping, hiking, paddling, fishing, and hunting that depend up on the magnificent Boundary Waters.”

The National Wildlife Federation also said the decision is troubling because it follows the U.S. Forest Service's decision to abandon an environmental study of mining in the area. That analysis would have allowed for thorough scientific analysis of the effects of sulfide-ore copper mining in the area and robust public comment.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the most popular federal wilderness area in the country, encompassing 1.1 million acres open to hunting and fishing, boasting 1,500 miles of canoe and kayak trails, and providing habitat for 230 species of wildlife. Toxic waste from sulfide mining is extremely damaging to fish and wildlife, and not a single one of 3,000 sulfide mines has ever operated without damaging releases. A sulfide mine within the Boundary Waters drainage would directly imperil the fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities it provides.

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