Here’s a personal reason I’m choosing to cast my ballot this fall for Biden: actions taken by the Trump administration have placed the future of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in danger.
Chilean-owned mining company Antofagasta PLC (under their subsidiary Twin Metals Minnesota) is trying to gain approval from the U.S. government to open sulfide-ore copper and nickel mines as close as three miles to the southwestern edge of the BWCA.
The mantra of the BWCA is “leave no trace” –– when you camp there, as my daughter and I just did, you take that mantra seriously. You pack out everything you pack in, you don’t burn garbage, you don’t use soap in or near the lakes, you discard any dishwater at least 100 feet from shore, and you collect firewood only from trees or branches that have already fallen.
A mining operation in this area would definitely leave a trace. These sulfide-ore mines would have tailings piles, would produce acidic groundwater discharge that would flow into the BWCA, and would emit massive amounts of air pollution that the prevailing westward winds would carry over the BWCA.
Antofagasta’s track record in Chile includes locating a tailings dam upstream from a community that resulted in the pollution of their groundwater, being fined millions of dollars for violating its environmental permits, and having the highest number of toxic spills in the region of Coquimbo, with one spill dumping more than 3,000 gallons of copper concentrate directly into the Choapa River.
The Trump administration canceled the two-year environmental study that would assess the impact of these mines on the watershed that flows into the Boundary Waters. That study included public input from more than 100,000 Americans as well as 20 months of science-based assessment, and it was canceled with nothing more than a single page press release that stated nothing new was being learned by the study.
And if you wonder why I’m no fan of the Trump administration, let me add just one more detail to this saga. The family of billionaire Andrónico Luksic, which controls Antofagasta, bought a $5.5 million dollar house in D.C. after Trump was elected in order to rent it to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law/adviser Jared Kushner for $15,000/month. This rental relationship is not a coincidence, and it reeks of impropriety. If there is a swamp to be drained, this is it.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area holds a special place in my heart –– I’ve had childhood trips here with my father and sister, a trip here with my brother when we were both young adults, and now recent trips with my daughter. I hope that someday my daughter is able to share these same trips with her kids and grandkids.