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Group backs pols critical of BWCAW-area copper mining

Opponents of proposed copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness have formed a new, nonprofit advocacy fund to support political candidates who share their views.

The Boundary Waters Action Fund is a new 501(c)4 organization formed at "protecting the wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters."

The group declared its first "certifications" on Thursday for "Boundary Waters Champions" from among candidates running for office in Minnesota — DFL gubernatorial candidates Erin Murphy and Tim Walz — because they have announced support for a federal study to determine the impact of copper mining on the wilderness.

Strong supporters of Twin Metals and other mining near the BWCAW oppose the federal study as redundant.

The new group's designation allows it to spend money on political purposes, but not all of its money, as would a political action committee. The group plans to endorse candidates but not spend money advertising for or against candidates, said Jeremy Drucker, director of the action fund.

The BWCAW is "America's most popular wilderness — a world-class hunting, fishing and paddling destination for Minnesotans, Americans, and travelers from all over the world. The BWCA is also a major economic engine driving hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly economic activity," Drucker said. "Boundary Waters Champions are those candidates who are committed to protecting this unique Minnesota icon from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining within its watershed."

The new group noted that recent polls show some 70 percent of Minnesota voters do not want copper mining near the Boundary Waters, including 90 percent of DFLers. The group said DFLers prefer, by a 40-to-1 margin, candidates who will continue Governor Mark Dayton's ban on sulfide-ore copper mining on state land near the BWCAW.

Additional "certifications" of candidates will be made in the coming weeks in other state and federal races across Minnesota, Drucker said.

Critics of BWCAW-area copper mining say the threat of mining waste tainting pristine waters is too great. Supporters of copper projects, like the Twin Metals mine proposed near Ely, say the companies can protect the water and provide hundreds of new jobs.

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