Mining has been long established in Minnesota, where the nation’s largest iron ore range produces taconite, essential to making steel.
But another type of mining, planned for the boundary waters wilderness area has Minnesotans and wilderness explorers fighting back against an industry they say will destroy the pristine waters and forests of the tourist region just north of Lake Superior.
The planned mining for metals such as copper, lead and zinc is in an area of sulfide rock, which is the problem. When rainfall hits the rock waste leftover from this mining, it forms sulfuric acid. The result is water contamination that’s toxic to fish and wildlife.
“Not once, not anywhere in the world, has sulfide mining been done without damaging lakes and streams. The mining companies do not have a proven way to deal with the acid mine drainage that is produced by the massive piles of waste rock produced by the mines,” write Dave and Amy Freeman, on their website Paddle to DC.
The Freemans are wilderness educators who take people on canoe tours and dogsledding trips in the far north, near their home near Ely, Minnesota. Dave Freeman is executive director of the Wilderness Classroom, which helps students connect with explorations going on around the world via online activities and lessons.
The couple say the mines planned for the region threaten 18,000 tourism-related jobs, and they are, as we speak, paddling by canoe to Washington D.C. to protest.
The Freemans trip through the Great Lakes and beyond will take a few months, until early December, so you’ve got time to follow their progress and learn about this threat to the environment.
“We are paddling to Washington, DC to protect our jobs, the long term health of our communities, as well as the world-renowned lakes, rivers, and forests of Northeastern Minnesota from sulfide mining,” writes Dave on their blog.
How can you help? You can sign their petition to protect the Boundary Waters, donate directly to the Paddle to DC mission and/or send a note to Sens. Amy Kloubuchar and Al Franken.
Kids can learn more about the Freemans unique trip via the online Wilderness Classroom.