Voyageurs National Park encompasses more than 84,000 acres of water – an area roughly the size of Minneapolis and Duluth combined. Nearly 250,000 visitors enjoy kayaking, canoeing, boating, camping, and fishing in the park each year, and contribute more than $16 million to the local economy.
But the lakes and rivers of Voyageurs National Park are now at risk from proposed sulfide mining projects in its watershed. There are numerous locations where mining corporations are exploring for copper, gold and nickel. The process to extract these metals from sulfide ore deposits produces sulfuric acid and other contaminants, which can leak into the surrounding waters. This pollution would head downstream toward the park. Even small amounts of acid mine contamination leaking into the Rainy River Drainage Basin would impact Voyageurs’ ecosystem for decades and threaten its pristine waters and wildlife, world-class fishing, and the family-owned small businesses that serve park visitors.
Findings from a recent study commissioned by Voyageurs National Park Association and the National Parks Conservation Association document these risks to Voyageurs National Park:
– Report Summary: A Watershed Moment (PDF)
– Full Report: Potential Metals Mining and Voyageurs National Park, Tom Myers, PhD (PDF)
– Map: Voyageurs Watershed
Voyageurs National Park Association is carefully monitoring this issue and the potential impacts on Voyageurs.
VNPA is committed to ensuring that our National Park remains protected for its surrounding communities, park visitors and future generations. The effects of acid mine drainage leave at least the potential for permanent damage to the park’s delicate natural resources, particularly our waters and wildlife. It is important that we have a realistic understanding of these risks. We need a strong environmental review process that considers the cumulative effects of this type of mining in our watershed.
It is crucial that our decisions makers have access to the best available science on sulfide mining so they can evaluate the potential impacts to the economy, natural resources, and the region’s way of life.
The International Joint Commission recommends a number of studies to scientifically assess the risk from new mining proposals in the watershed. We urge the U.S. Government to fund these recommendations.
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Voyageurs National Park Association would like to thank the National Parks Conservation Association and the Quetico Superior Foundation for their support of this effort.