A plea for help | AspenTimes.com

A plea for help

Dear Editor:

After graduating from Aspen High School in 2009, I moved to Minnesota in order to attend Carleton College. Although I was ecstatic about attending a school I loved, I doubted that I would find opportunities for outdoor recreation comparable to the Roaring Fork Valley’s outstanding venues for hiking, biking, rafting, skiing, camping and snowshoeing.

I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered northeast Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), an area that, although it offers a different array of outdoor activities (canoeing, portaging, swimming, fishing, and hiking), satisfied my Aspen hunger for the outdoors.

After spending my summer canoeing and camping in the BWCAW, I discovered that many other Aspenites share my love for this area, visited by 250,000 people from across the country every year. For this reason, I was horrified when I learned about the plans of PolyMet Mining, Twin Metals, and Franconia Minerals to perform risky sulfide mining (which the EPA has named as the most toxic-producing industry in the country) in close proximity to the beloved BWCAW.

The BWCAW is the most popular wilderness area in the U.S. and is home to a vast network of unique ecosystems. We should not risk the health of the entire BWCAW and the surrounding watershed of the Superior National Forest by allowing sulfide mines to operate within the BWCAW watershed. Although mining companies boast of new technology that will mitigate the risks of the proposed sulfide mining leaching toxic chemicals into the BWCAW and Lake Superior, the track records of sulfide mining projects do not support these companies’ claims of “green mining” techniques – 89 percent of mining companies that have polluted in the past had assured, beforehand, that they would not pollute.

In the proposed mining projects in northeast Minnesota, 99 percent of the ore will be left behind as waste. After toxic metals leach from these waste piles, the trail of acid mine drainage will contaminate the connected lakes, rivers and wetlands of the BWCAW and Lake Superior, making the waters as acidic as lemon juice, turning water orange and devastating aquatic life. Once this environmental destruction has occurred, the ecosystems of the Boundary Waters cannot be restored.

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I am currently working with Environment Minnesota to protect the clean water of the BWCAW and Lake Superior from toxic sulfide mining pollution. Please help us save the BWCAW, loved by people in Minnesota, Aspen and nationwide. Contact the Obama administration and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, voice your concerns about proposed mining operations, and urge them not to weaken laws that will subsequently allow mining companies to contaminate waters in the BWCAW and Lake Superior water basin.

Elissa Walter

Aspen, and student at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.