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.
June 13, 2016: The U.S. Forest Service announced a 30-day period for public input and a listening session to better understand public views related to two proposed mining lease renewals. The leases, MNES-01352 and MNES-01353, are currently held by Twin Metals Minnesota and are located within the same watershed as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and Voyageurs National Park. The public input period will begin June 20, 2016 and run through July 20, 2016. Comments may be mailed to the Superior National Forest, 8901 Grand Ave Place, Duluth, MN 55808; or emailed to TwinMetalsLeaseInput@fs.fed.us. The listening session will be held July 13, 2016 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and will be live streamed on the internet. Look for upcoming communications on how to participate with VNPA in the public input period.
It is also crucial that the public 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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