House Republicans Vote to Imperil a Minnesota Wilderness Area for Foreign Mining Company

Washington, D.C. – On a largely party line vote, the U.S. House advanced a Republican bill that would resurrect two expired leases in the Superior National Forest for a Chilean mining conglomerate seeking to build a copper sulfide mine near one of America’s most visited wilderness areas. The bill (H.R. 3905) would overturn a 2016 U.S. Forest Service finding that building a copper sulfide mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Northern Minnesota could result in “extreme” and irreparable environmental harm in the region. The mining leases – which sit on the border of the Boundary Waters wilderness area – were not renewed after the study was released, but this bill would overturn that decision and make the leases automatically renew perpetually into the future.

“This is yet another example of Republican willingness to risk anything, even the most pristine and beloved places we have, so private industry can make more money,” Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said. “Putting the future of the Boundary Waters in the hands of a foreign mining company is bad for the economy in Minnesota, puts the health of local communities at risk, and will do irreversible harm to a national treasure. They keep telling us not to worry because the mine won’t actually be inside the wilderness, as if acid mine drainage will stop at the boundary. It won’t.”

This legislation and the potential mine is opposed by a large majority of people in the state and a broad coalition of local residents, local business owners, and conservationists that treasure the pristine character of the Boundary Waters and depend on the economic foundation that it provides.

  • The BWCAW and the neighboring Voyageurs National Park power the economy of that region, supporting 22,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in visitor spending, all of which are dependent on the unspoiled character of the more than 1,000 lakes in the area.
  • The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of America’s most-accessible wilderness areas due to its interconnected system of lakes, rivers and streams that provide areas for recreation, sportsmen and hiking activities. The BWCAW is 1.1 million acres in size, making it the largest Wilderness east of the Rockies and north of the Everglades.
  • Despite inflated claims of job creation by bill proponents, the mining company projects that the mine would only create 1,950 jobs, while other economic analyses show that it would risk the loss of over ten times as many.

Press Contact

Diane Padilla                                                      

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 306-1333