Mining Transition and Increased Risks to Water Quality

Mining Transition and Increased Risks to Water Quality

As the region’s taconite industry has begun to plummet, geologists are increasing efforts to shift mining explorations in northern Minnesota back to “precious metals.” Dick Blackstrom’s Drilling Company has recently been pulling up core samples from the bottom of Birch Lake in the Ely area, and according to Ernie Lehman of the Drilling Company, there may be an underground mine in this lake in a few years. The price of platinum is at an all-time high, and if these core samples are accurate, there may be a wealth of the mineral under the lake. Though this type of mining can be more profitable than most, it also brings increased risks to the area environment. The rock bearing these precious minerals also contains sulfide minerals, which can turn to sulfuric acid when exposed to air.

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