Great Lakes Communities Work to Protect Water from Mining Proposals

Great Lakes Communities Work to Protect Water from Mining Proposals

Previously unexplored deposits of copper, nickel, gold and other precious metals in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario are attracting new attention from mining interests and citizens in the Great Lakes region. Although these deposits have long been known to geologists, they were not economically attractive until recently. Increasing global demand for copper, platinum and other metals widely used in renewable energy technology, cell phones, and electronic devices is driving metals prices up, and along with it, investment and exploration by mining companies.

The metals are contained in sulfide ore deposits, hence the use of the term sulfide mining. When rocks containing sulfides are disturbed, broken up, and come in contact with air and water, sulfuric acid is produced. The acid leaches out metals and other chemicals from the rock, forming acid mine drainage, which pollutes water and harms fish and wildlife. Acid mine drainage continues long after mines are no longer productive—for thousands of years in some cases (there are ancient Roman mines that are still polluting).

Citizens in communities across the Great Lakes are watching closely as mining proposals surface and many are voicing their concerns about sulfide mining in our region:

  • In Wisconsin, 300 people turned out for a January public hearing for a legislative proposal to streamline the state’s permitting process for mines and rollback water protections and citizen participation. The legislation was voted down.
  • 13,000 Minnesota residents signed petitions asking state leaders to protect the state’s water from sulfide mining pollution. The petitions were delivered to the Capitol by dogsled in March.
  • 260 people participated in the Lake Superior Binational Forum’s March meeting on the topic of “Mining Impacts in the Lake Superior Watershed.”

You can get involved in mining issues. Sign up for Freshwater Future’s e-mail list to receive action alerts and updates on this topic. Contact Julie O’Leary for more information julie@freshwaterfuture.org.

 

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.