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Rep. McCollum Re-introduces Legislation to Permanently Protect Minnesota’s Boundary Waters from Sulfide-Ore Copper Mining

January 31, 2023

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Libby London, (612) 227-8407,

Washington D.C.

Today, U. S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) re-introduced legislation to permanently protect Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act permanently withdraws 234,328 acres of federal land and waters within the Superior National Forest, banning risky sulfide-ore copper mining in the headwaters of the Wilderness and Minnesota’s only National Park. The bill does not restrict taconite or iron-ore mining anywhere in the State of Minnesota.

“Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s decision last week to ban mining for 20 years on federal public lands next to the Boundary Waters was a historic and critical step towards protecting America’s canoe country. The Boundary Waters, however, is not a 20-year wilderness – its irreplaceable values compel permanent protection. Rep. McCollum’s reintroduction of the Boundary Waters permanent protection legislation is key to protecting America’s most visited Wilderness – forever,” said Ingrid Lyons, Executive Director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. 

On Sunday, the Star Tribune Editorial Board wrote about the critical necessity of permanent protection. Its editorial came on the heels of the Biden Administration’s announcement last week to ban dangerous mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters for 20 years, writing, “But there’s still work to do. Permanent protection still must be implemented to prevent future chicanery from undoing BWCA protections or letting them expire. Legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., would do that and merits swift passage. State lawmakers also must pass Sen. Kelly Morrison’s bill to put mining restrictions on state land in the BWCA watershed,” going on to add that “Haaland’s order constitutes conscientious natural resources leadership. It also safeguards an already thriving sector of the regional economy — the outfitters, resorts and other businesses that rely on a pristine BWCA. Another leader deserving praise is Becky Rom, an Ely native, grandmother and former attorney who has led this David-vs.-Goliath fight against Antofagasta.”

Nearly 70 percent of Minnesotans support permanent protection for this priceless Wilderness area. A poll conducted by Change Research of Minnesota midterm voters finds that 7 in 10 (69%) support legislation to permanently protect Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. The poll of 1,098 2022 Minnesota voters from November 7-10, 2022 found that support for permanent protection ran high across all demographics and every region of the state. 

A 2017 report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency describes the waters within the mineral withdrawal area as “immaculate.” The Report concludes that “the majority of the waterbodies within this watershed had exceptional biological, chemical, and physical characteristics that are worthy of additional protection.

Original cosponsors of the legislation are as follows: Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Daniel T. Kildee (MI-5), Janice D. Schakowsky (IL-09), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Sean Casten (IL-06), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Judy Chu (CA-27), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Cori Bush (MO-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Ed Case (HI-01), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Suzan K. DelBene (WA-01), Jesus G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Andre Carson (IN-07), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Mike Levin (CA-49), Melanie Ann Stansbury (NM-01), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Ted Lieu (CA-33), John B. Larson (CT-01), Joe Courtney (CT-02), Deborah K. Ross (NC-02), and Adam Schiff (CA-30).