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  • This water is so clean, you can drink it.

  • I've been drinking out of this river for probably fifty years.

  • What does it taste like?

  • Tastes like water.

  • That's because the water here comes from one of the most

  • protected places in the United States.

  • You can't get here with a car.

  • You can't use a boat with a motor.

  • We couldn't even fly our drone past this point.

  • These are the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota's Superior National Forest.

  • Thousands of pristine lakes like this one.

  • Hundreds of thousands of people come to see it every year.

  • You listen to the sounds of the rapids.

  • You watch the eagle fly overhead.

  • You paddle on still waters.

  • Be on your own.

  • But there's one problem.

  • The Boundary Waters is just outside one of the largest

  • untapped sources of copper in the world.

  • Under the previous administration,

  • America's rich natural resources,

  • of which your state has a lot,

  • were put under lock and key.

  • Since taking office in 2017,

  • the Trump administration has opened up more than 13 million acres

  • of public land for drilling and mining,

  • that's more than any previous administration,

  • including a part of Superior National Forest,

  • right outside the Boundary Waters.

  • Copper, the mineral underneath the forest, is the

  • wiring in our phones, the pipes in our walls.

  • And we also need it for electric car batteries,

  • and solar panels, and wind turbines.

  • We need copper,

  • and there aren't that many places in the world to get it.

  • All this has renewed a really old and complicated question:

  • when is it worth risking the life above ground

  • for the riches underneath?

  • The US has more than 600 million acres of national parks,

  • monuments, forests and wilderness areas.

  • They are the brainchild of President Theodore Roosevelt.

  • He worried that the reckless speed logging, blast rock mining, and oil drilling that

  • fueled the Industrial Revolution could ruin the country's beauty and resources

  • for future generations.

  • So he created 150 national forests and parks, 18 national

  • monuments, and 51 bird sanctuaries.

  • I mean, get up on a high mountain somewhere and

  • remember that somebody saved that so that you could have that experience and

  • that's a kind of remarkable legacy.

  • We call them drinking water lakes, because

  • you can dip your cup right out the side of your canoe and drink straight from

  • the lakes without even treating them or anything.

  • Jason owns a business that outfits visitors for canoe trips in the

  • Boundary Waters.

  • They come here because what we have is so special and it's so

  • unique you just can't you can't have this sort of an experience anyplace else

  • in the world. To have, you know, a million acres totally undeveloped.

  • The recreation and tourism industry here is big.

  • it brings in about $77 million a year.

  • The problem is, that's not enough to support the entire region.

  • Seasonal recreation workers typically make about twenty-five thousand dollars a year.

  • That's less than the state's average income.

  • You're not going to be able to raise a family on $25,000 a year.

  • You're not even going to be able to buy a house.

  • And this part of the state used to have

  • a different core industry: iron mining.

  • We've been mining up in this area for

  • well over a hundred years, and so it has a big significance.

  • There are lot of second, third, fourth, generation miners that have always worked in the

  • mine or their family has worked in the mine.

  • The company that plans to build the

  • mine near the Boundary Waters, Twin Metals, has said they'll pay about $90,000

  • a year, which is well over the state's average income.

  • But copper mining is also risky in ways that iron mining wasn't.

  • For the last two years, the Twin Metals company has been

  • collecting samples of the rock that they

  • plan to mine near the Boundary Waters.

  • This is a typical core sample, these

  • little blocks that you're seeing in here really establish how deep we are below

  • ground surface.

  • Once we hit this, 755 feet, this is

  • where we start seeing the minerals.

  • The copper is locked inside this shiny part here.

  • To get it out, you have to crush up the rock to a powder-like consistency

  • copper only makes up about 1% of the sample, which means 99% of it is waste.

  • The crushed up rock is submerged in a solution that floats the copper to the top.

  • It's eventually what becomes wires, pipes, and everything else.

  • And the waste rock sinks. That's the risky part.

  • It contains toxic elements like arsenic, lead, and mercury,

  • which were previously trapped inside the rock.

  • And usually, when mining companies produce toxic waste,

  • they store it in giant pits, like these.

  • But those pits don't always hold up.

  • It may be the worst environmental disaster

  • in British Columbia's history.

  • 3 million gallon toxic stew of heavy metals poured downstream.

  • Devastation as far as the eye can see.

  • and the question that everyone here is just stunned by is how this could ever

  • have been allowed to happen.

  • And even when there isn't one of these huge,

  • catastrophic spills, abandoned mines

  • leak millions of gallons of waste into streams.

  • These colors indicate heavy metal contamination that poisons

  • aquatic life and taints drinking water.

  • A lot of the economy that this region was

  • based on was getting gold and silver out of these hills

  • and it left of a legacy of pollution.

  • The cleanup costs taxpayers millions of dollars long after mining

  • companies take their profits and leave.

  • Twin metals plans to store the waste

  • from its mine right here: next to a river that ultimately leads to the Boundary Waters.

  • And instead of storing wastewater in a pit, their plan is to dry out the

  • waste and store it in stacks like these.

  • On its website, Twin Metals calls the dry

  • stack method "environmentally friendly,"

  • but to support that, they point to another dry stack mine in Alaska,

  • where the verdict isn't actually that clear.

  • The Alaska mining company's own data show that lead contaminated dust is

  • blowing off the dry stacks, and they've acknowledged that it could be getting into the water.

  • And in aquatic life near the mine, scientists found elevated

  • levels of arsenic, lead, and mercury.

  • Just like the Alaska mine, the Twin

  • Metals mine would be surrounded by interconnected waterways.

  • Any pollution would spread far beyond the initial impact site.

  • All this is why, in 2016, the Obama administration decided the risks of

  • copper mining here would be "unacceptable," and said that Twin Metals couldn't do it.

  • But two years later, the Trump administration reversed that decision.

  • Tonight I'm proudly announcing that we will soon be taking the first steps to

  • rescind the federal withdrawal in Superior National Forest and restore

  • mineral exploration for our amazing people and miners and workers.

  • In the 1980s, the iron mines of northeastern Minnesota

  • started to close.

  • These days unemployment there

  • has gone as high as 90%.

  • Of the 15,000 union men and women who work the Iron

  • Range mines, more than 3,000 are laid off and hundreds more jobs are in jeopardy.

  • A full-scale depression forcing thousands of miners to abandon the area.

  • When the layoffs happened in the mine,

  • we were all hit. Everyone was hit, day care was hit,

  • the hairdresser was hit, the grocery store was hit, not just the

  • people that were laid off.

  • That's because mining jobs tend to not stick around.

  • I actually worked in several different states in the mining industry.

  • And one of the things I noticed, when I go back to the places where I worked 20 years ago,

  • none of those communities are thriving.

  • You don't build long-term prosperity on a mining industry.

  • Industry and conservation have always fought over the

  • best use of our public lands, and the people closest to those lands often have

  • differing visions for their own future.

  • This proposed mine

  • really puts the sustainable wilderness-edge economy, that we have going right now, at risk.

  • And it definitely puts businesses like mine at risk.

  • Jobs are scarce up here. Good jobs, I should say.

  • Ones with benefits, where you can raise a family, put money aside for your retirement.

  • So this is a very good hope for us.

  • For our towns, our families, our kids.

  • In a speech in 1908, Teddy Roosevelt took stock of

  • America's industrial progress. "We have become great in a material sense because

  • of the lavish use of our resources," he said.

  • "But the time has come to inquire

  • seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron,

  • the oil, and the gas are exhausted."

  • More than a hundred years later,

  • many of the most impressive human inventions,

  • including those that could ultimately eliminate the need for fossil fuels,

  • still depend on resources like copper.

  • Resources that will run out someday.

  • The question isn't really whether to let companies mine for copper near the Boundary Waters.

  • It's whether the short-term gains are worth changing places like this forever.

This water is so clean, you can drink it.

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B1 Vox mining copper boundary twin administration

America's wilderness is for sale

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/08/18
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