Mining’s Cumulative Impact on Lake Superior

Mining’s Cumulative Impact on Lake Superior

Communities in the Upper Great Lakes region are no strangers to mining. Since the early days, mining has impacted those who lived and settled here, including their descendants living in the area today. Mining impacts communities on a social, environmental, and economic basis and it is imperative that we understand just what those impacts are.

When an application for mining is sought, it is required that the company applying for the mining permit analyse the impacts it will have to that particular community. These analyses have been done on a project by project basis, but what about the big picture? What about all of the “allowable” pollution under permit standards that eventually migrates to the big lake? What if there are dozens of projects that release small amounts individually, but when added together, could make a big problem?

As more and more mining projects come on line, it is important to keep that big picture perspective in order to protect the communities of the Great Lakes. That is why Freshwater Future has been working with local, regional, and state-wide partners in developing a request to the U.S. EPA to conduct a Cumulative Effects Assessment. This assessment would provide the big picture that communities need when weighing resource decisions.

According to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the U.S. EPA has stated obligations to conduct activities such as a Cumulative Effects Assessment, since they are committed to the prevention of environmental threats before they turn into problems. In addition, one of the main objectives of the Agreement is to develop a better understanding of the Great Lakes ecosystem. In order to develop that understanding, the Agreement specifically says that it cannot be achieved by addressing individual threats in isolation.

To support this request, 59 businesses and organizations from across the Upper Great Lakes basin signed the Cumu­lative Effects Assessment request letter and it was sent in December 2013 to the U.S. EPA’s Regional Administrator. We look forward to hearing their reply and will continue to work with all of you in the meantime to protect the waters of this area.



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