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Forest Service finds mining would pose risk to Minnesota watershed

A federal study released Thursday determined that hard rock mining in a Minnesota wilderness would risk contaminating the area.

In its assessment, the US Forest Service said copper-nickel mining would pose a major risk to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. Although the assessment is a draft, it proposes a 20-year ban on copper mining on federal lands in the watershed.

Potential fallout from mining in the region includes “the creation of permanently stored waste” upstream, which could lead to the discharge of water with high levels of acidity and metal contamination, the IAAF says. Evaluation.

“The greatest potential risk to the water quality of the wilderness area and land in the drawdown areas comes from the catastrophic failure of a tailings storage dam in a wetland,” adds the assessment. . “Storage of tailings in a wet pond poses a risk of dam failure and the potential release of a large volume of contaminated sediment (tailings) and water into a nearby water body with potential transport of it. ci to downstream water bodies and receptors.”

Rep. Betsy McCollum (D-Minn.), whose district includes the covered area, said the project illustrates the need for a permanent legislative ban on mining in the area, which she introduced. The executive branch does not have the power to unilaterally ban mining in the region permanently.

“This pristine and precious wilderness requires permanent protection. The scientific basis of EA leaves no doubt: it is simply too risky to mine there,” McCollum said in a statement. “The proposed 20-year withdrawal is absolutely justified – and to avoid the type of political intervention we have seen previously from the Trump administration, my legislation must be passed to permanently protect this federal wasteland and the interests of the American people in perpetuity.”

The assessment comes nearly six months after the Interior Department announced the cancellation of two mining leases in the area granted under the Trump administration in 2019. The January legal opinion determined that the Trump administration had incorrectly renewed the leases in 2019 after initially approving them the previous year. . The Biden administration’s decision extended a ban on new mining leases in 225,000 acres for two years.