Mining, BWCA Supporters Make Final Cases in Copper-Nickel Land Use Debate

Virgina High School was packed Tuesday for the last public hearing in front of the U.S. Forest Service

VIRGINIA, Minn. – The auditorium at Virginia High School was packed this evening with hundreds showing up to voice their opinions of the U.S. Forest Service’s proposal to withdraw 234,000 acres of federal land around the boundary waters that would be used for future copper–nickel mining.

It’s an issue that’s been debated back and forth, ever since the forest service denied the renewal of mineral leases to Twin Metals in Ely, back in December of last year.

Many people on the Iron Range who support mining are angry with the proposal, while those who want to protect the Boundary Waters say this is a positive move for the area around the Superior National Forest.

Supporters of the mining industry walked the streets in Virginia on Tuesday, making their voices heard. If the forest service’s proposal to withdraw the land in question from being explored for possible minerals, they say it could hurt the economies in mining communities and severely impact future jobs on the range.

“They can’t do this,” says Bernie Palcher, an Ely resident and mining supporter. “What they’re doing is not right and they know it. They’re going to try and get by with it and we’re here to show them we’re not going to let you guys get by with this this time again.”

On the other side of this debate, organizations like Save the Boundary Waters are praising the forest service’s proposal, saying if land this close to the boundary waters is used for mining copper and nickel, it could leave some lasting effects on the environment around the BWCAW.

“I’m not anti–mining,” says Amy Freeman, a supporter of Save the Boundary Waters. “I understand the need for it and the importance of the taconite mining in Minnesota, but this is a different type of mining and would seriously threaten the wilderness area.”

If the forest service’s proposed withdrawal is approved there would be a two year environmental impact study done to look at the effects the mines would have on the boundary waters land, and would keep the area from being used for any potential projects over the next 20 years.


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