On Monday, President Donald Trump held an economic roundtable in Burnsville with a triumphant note in his voice. Happy times were here again.
“Under the previous administration, America’s rich natural resources were put under lock and key,” he told the assembled. Jobs and “everything else” in the Superior National Forest, a beloved expanse of pine and crystalline lakes in northern Minnesota, had been “ripped away.” And Trump wasn’t willing to stand for it.
He reminded the crowd that, last June, he’d visited Duluth to announce he’d “restore mineral exploration for the miners and workers of Minnesota.... And we have really done that.”
What Trump said is technically true, in the same way banana Laffy Taffy can technically be called breakfast.
The mining Trump spoke of is a proposed copper and nickel mining operation near Ely – right on the border of the Boundary Waters. Its name: Twin Metals Minnesota.
In 2016, the Obama administration put the kibosh on Twin Metals’ mining dreams. It denied the company’s mineral leases, because this kind of mining has been found to produce sulfuric acid that could poison the area’s pristine waters and wildlife.
And if history is any indication, there’s good reason to be concerned. Twin Metals is owned by Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta Minerals, which has a patchy history when it comes to environmental safety.
The company’s flagship mine, Los Pelambres, caused many toxic spills in the Coquimbo region, and was found guilty in 2014 of cutting off a village’s water supply by building a waste dam upstream. That’s to say nothing of the priceless ancient rock paintings and ruins the company recklessly destroyed.
The only reason we’re still talking about Antofagasta is because in 2017, the Trump administration reversed those Obama-era restrictions. It abruptly canceled a two-year study on the impacts of copper mining near the Boundary Waters, and told Twin Metals it was free to go nuts.
The Washington Post and others noted that Antofagasta belongs to the family of billionaire Andronico Luksic, who also happens to be Invanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s landlord.
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, which has vociferously opposed the operation at every turn, insists that leaving the wilderness untouched is, in the end, best for everyone.
An independent study by Harvard University showed that protecting the wilderness rather than mining it would end up being more profitable due to the area’s 155,000 annual visitors and $900 million in economic activity. On top of that, a majority of Minnesotans are against the project.
“The Boundary Waters is Minnesota’s crown jewel,” says Save the Boundary Waters' Jeremy Drucker.
Twin Metals is in the process of renewing its lease for another 10-year term. Drucker says it’s important for Minnesotans to remember what’s at stake: “Donald Trump is selling out Minnesota and the Boundary Waters Wilderness to a foreign mining company, plain and simple.”