I was lucky to grow up in northern Minnesota, where we have a smorgasbord of public lands that facilitate world-class hiking, hunting, camping, and canoeing in places like the Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. After completing college and Air Force ROTC at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I was also privileged to serve our country as an Air Force missile launch officer.
During recent years, one of our most potent military and economic adversaries has been China, a country with a growing force of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, likely pointed in our direction. In fact, according to the Federation of American Scientists, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has approximately 250 silos under construction — more than ten times the number of ICBM silos in operation today.
Hence, it was a shock to learn that Antofagasta, owner of the proposed Twin Metals sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine on the doorstep of the Boundary Waters, has inked deals to supply copper concentrates from its mines to Chinese smelters, as the anti-sulfide-ore copper mining group Save the Boundary Waters reported on July 6.
Adding insult to injury, Chris Baldwin, a mining engineer and third-generation Iron Ranger from Hibbing, had written in June in MinnPost, “If this area is mined, these sulfide wastes would need to be treated differently and isolated in a ‘geologic sarcophagus’ in perpetuity, to try to protect the headwaters of the greatest source of fresh water on the planet.”
So, not only does it appear that Twin Metals may be planning to sell Minnesota’s natural resources to China, which may use them to help build more silos/ICBMs (and other weapons), its sulfide mine may decimate the BWCAW watershed.
As explained by Field & Stream contributing editor Hal Herring, “None of us want our resources vampired away by global pirates who will leave us with a moonscape of polluted waters and ruined land. This is not us. If they think we’ll take all of this lying down, they are thinking of another country.”
Come October I’ll be hunting grouse in the Boundary Waters and then, in November, deer hunting in the surrounding Superior National Forest. These are some of the wildest, most pristine public lands and waterways in the nation, places I pledged to protect and defend while serving as an Air Force officer. Potentially allowing a foreign company to mine sulfide-ore in the Boundary Waters watershed, then turn around and sell our natural resources to China, potentially helping it build more ICBMs that will likely be pointed at us: truth truly is stranger — and more dangerous — than fiction.
To help ensure no such sulfide mine is built, contact your congressional legislators and ask them to support the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (H.R. 2794). This bipartisan legislation will permanently protect the Boundary Waters from the watershed-ruining ravages of sulfide mining.
David Lien of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and formerly of Grand Rapids, is a former Air Force officer and the founder and former chairman of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (backcountryhunters.org). He's the author of "Hunting for Experience II: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation." In 2014, he was recognized by Field & Stream as a "Hero of Conservation.” To learn more about protecting the BWCAW, he suggests going to backcountryhunters.org/take_action#/132.