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Supporters of proposed BWCA legislation gather at Duluth City Hall

May 25, 2022 09:48AM ● By Laura Durenberger

Photo: Ralph Katieb

By Robb Coles - KBJR News - May 24, 2022

The pressure continues on both sides of the copper-nickel mining conversation.

On the same day lawmakers in Washington, DC discussed a proposal to pull hundreds of thousands of national forest acres from the federal mining program, environmentalists gathered in Duluth to make their voices heard.

Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from the Twin Cities area, proposed the bill back in April 2021.

It’s called Boundary Waters Protection and Pollution Prevention Act.

If it becomes law, it would ban copper-nickel mining within the 220,000 acres of Superior National Forest and within the Rainy River Watershed.

That could spell trouble for Twin Metals, which is in the permitting stages for its copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters.

Those supporting McCollum’s legislation gathered at Duluth City Hall Tuesday morning, hoping to gain the attention of lawmakers in Washington, DC.

That group said the Boundary Waters is the most heavily visited wilderness area in the United States.

They’ve said tourism brings in more than $900 million in economic activity to the area, and that helps support more than 17,000 local jobs.

Some, like Ingrid Lyons with the advocacy group Save the Boundary Waters, are worried about the impact mining could have on the wilderness.

“Protecting this wilderness from the likelihood of irreversible pollution is also the will of the people. Nearly 70% of Minnesotans want to see the Boundary Waters permanently protected,” said Lyons.

On the other side, Congressman Pete Stauber participated in an energy and mineral resources hearing on that bill in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

The Republican, who’s a ranking member on that committee, shared how proposals like Twin Metals are vital to northern Minnesota’s economy and to America’s domestic mineral supply chain.

“This bill permanently bans mining. It arbitrarily withdraws the region, a historic mining district, from accessing the metals that electric carmakers and others so desperately need,” said Rep. Stauber.

The bill is currently in the subcommittee and must be discussed before it could eventually be considered in the U.S. House.

In January, the federal government announced it had canceled Twin Metals’ mineral leases.

Following that decision, state regulatory agencies put a pause on the environmental review process and that is currently still in effect.

To see the original report and read related stories, follow this link to the KBJR News website.

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