Biden takes big step toward Boundary Waters protection

Tree-covered island bathed in sunlight, with image reflected in lake surface. Shoreline with larger forest is visible in the background.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

Ernesto Ruiz

Initiates mineral withdrawal process

For decades, mining interests have been vying to set up shop just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. President Biden is now taking action to help forestall that threat, marking a major victory. 

President Biden initiated a mineral withdrawal process that would begin a two-year moratorium on mineral leasing and permitting and allow for a review of potential environmental impacts. The review could serve as a basis for a 20-year withdrawal. 

“Today, we celebrate this important action, and look forward to additional steps by the administration and Congress to protect the pristine headwaters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for future generations,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement.

Boundary Waters targeted by mining interests for decades

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the crown jewel of the region’s wildlands and one of the nation’s most visited wilderness areas. It and the surrounding lands and waters are the ancestral home of the Ojibwe people; provide habitat to wildlife like black bears, beavers, lynx and moose; and generate tens of millions of dollars annually for the outdoor recreation economy. But for many years, this stretch of Superior National Forest has been coveted by hard-rock mineral mining interests. 

The two mining leases issued by the Bureau of Land Management on the doorstep of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1966 have since been renewed numerous times, changing hands between various corporate entities.  

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is among the nation’s most visited wilderness areas, but nearby land has been coveted by mining interests for decades

In 2012, the leases were transferred to Franconia Minerals, a subsidiary of Twin Metals. The latter company—itself subsidiary of a Chilean mining conglomerate—still holds those leases. Its proposed mining project would leak sulfuric acid and toxic heavy metals into the watershed, potentially contaminating the area for thousands of years to come.  

The Obama administration denied renewal of the Twin Metals leases after determining the risk of mining in or near the Boundary Waters was “unacceptable,” then launched its own mineral withdrawal process, beginning with an environmental review. The Trump administration cancelled the withdrawal process and unlawfully revived the Twin Metals leases. Now President Biden has begun the process of undoing Trump’s attack, hopefully setting the stage to protect the Boundary Waters once and for all. 

Thank President Biden and ask him to protect the Boundary Waters once and for all!