A group of Ely residents working to stop the spread of copper, nickel and precious metals mining within the Boundary Waters watershed plans to expand attention to their cause with a move south.
Sustainable Ely, which opened an education center in the town earlier this year, plans two events in the Twin Cities this fall to talk about the environmental risks associated with the mining.
Becky Rom, a retired attorney and daughter of a canoe outfitter, said the mining process exposes sulfide ore to air and water, which could result in acid runoff.
"Our highest value waters would be at risk to not only sulfuric acid runoff from waste piles and tailing piles, but also the heavy metals that leech out of these piles with the acid: arsenic, mercury, copper-nickel," she said.
Rom and arctic explorer Paul Schurke, who owns a dogsled lodge in Ely, will speak at an event Friday night at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi. The group is planning another event next month in Minneapolis.
"People definitely need to be more aware of the proposals. They need to understand the environmental and economic downside to the proposals. There's never really been a good public discussion of the costs and benefits," Rom said.
The companies hoping to open copper-nickel mines in northeastern Minnesota counter that it can be done safely, and that pollutants can be contained and treated on site. Proponents also say the proposals would create jobs in the region.
The first copper-nickel mining proposal to be considered in Minnesota will be PolyMet's NorthMet project. It is not located within the Boundary Waters watershed, but several other potential projects are.
A draft of the environmental review of PolyMet's project will be released to the public next month.