(KMSP) - Environmentalists are trying to put a stop to a proposed mining site northeast of the iron range because they're worried mining will impact the water at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Taconite and iron ore were natural resources that the early Minnesota economy was built on, but now, with the closure of several mines on the iron range and the loss of thousands of jobs, Northern Minnesota is turning to something new -- copper-nickel.
Near Hoyt Lakes, Minn. Polymet has received enough support to move forward with a mine that the company says would generate around 300 jobs, but just south of Ely, Minn. Twin Metals Minnesota is running into some serious opposition for a proposed mine.
The is opposition largely coming from environmental groups who worry because the underground mine site sits on the BWCAW’s watershed.
"This sort of pollution would travel through our water ways—it would be pretty much uncontrollable. The source would continue to pollute for 100s of years, and we would lose our Boundary Waters Wilderness," said Becky Rom from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.
Wednesday, the mayor of Rom’s home town of Ely, Chuck Novak, was alongside several other mining proponents and northern Minnesota mayors in Washington D.C. urging the Federal Bureau of Land Management to give Twin Metals the land lease needed to advance work on the mine.
Steve Giorgi, Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools and mining proponent, joined the coalition in Washington D.C. Wednesday.
"Nobody is opening a mine, they are simply asking to get those leases to continue the exploration,” said Giorgi who said the group met with the Federal Bureau of Land Management and Congressman Rick Nolan.
“We had a very sincere, lengthy conversation about the situations in Northeastern Minnesota, about our concerns about legislation banning all mining in the Rainy River Watershed.”
The trip to D.C. comes on the heels of a strongly worded letter from governor Dayton saying he was denying Twin Metals' request to access state land for the copper-nickel operation due to environmental concerns -- a move that Giorgi said was a major driving force in planning the Washington visit.
"On this issue, Governor Dayton is not speaking for Northeastern Minnesota. He's not representing the best interest of the citizens we represent,” said Giorgi.
But for Rom, it was disappointing to see the mayor of her hometown on the trip. As she says, he should know the value of protecting the BWCAW.
"The mining site is surrounded by nearly 30 resorts, outfitters, camps and campgrounds and hundreds of homes and it would be nice if he listened to those people--the people who live in this community and depend on clean water and the health of our forest," Rom told Fox 9.