Seems everyone has an opinion on mining in the Rainy River watershed and in the Superior National Forest. But are the many opinions based on fear and hearsay? Or are they based on facts?

An environmental-impact study on hardrock mineral prospecting in the watershed and in the national forest was concluded in 2012. The result was "little impact to the natural quality of wilderness character." The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "record of decision" is posted online.

Since no hardrock mining is being conducted in the Rainy River watershed, opinions are being formed without facts. Where might a mine be located? What minerals would be mined? How would they be mined? How would water be affected? How would tailings be handled? No answers can be determined until there is an actual mining proposal.

And when a project is proposed, its environmental impact will then be studied, exhaustively. Only then opinions can be formed on the mining that will be based on facts.

Days before he left office, President Barack Obama ordered a halt to all mineral exploration in the Rainy River watershed, even though there was no proposed mine plan, no details, and no facts. Ignoring the National Environmental Policy Act process, the Obama administration forced a pre-emptive halt to all exploration.

The current administration reversed this, triggering environmental activists to call for an environmental assessment. Since there is no proposal to mine, that assessment could only review exploration. After a 21-month review, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue ended the assessment, stating that no new information was made available and that the findings of the environmental impact study in 2012 remained in place.

More recently, a group of retired U.S. Forest Service employees, none of whom are hardrock geologists, and Democrat U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul tried to force yet another review. More disheartening, both of Minnesota's U.S. senators, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith, signed a letter to Secretary Perdue questioning his decision.

I would expect these people to have a better understanding of the National Environmental Policy Act process.

Let's follow the process and wait until a mine plan is announced. Then opinions can be based on facts.


Linda Maki of Ely is associated with Up North Jobs (, Minnesota Miners (@MinnesotaMiners), and Conservationists with Common Sense ( and is the granddaughter, daughter, and wife of miners.