The Boundary Waters Conservation Alliance has created a political action committee, saying it wants to make protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior from copper mining a major 2020 election issue.

“For years, foreign mining conglomerates like Antofagasta and Glencore have sought to influence our state’s legislative process to secure Minnesota’s public lands for their profit,” said Chris Knopf, executive director of the alliance. “The Boundary Waters Conservation Alliance and the BWCA PAC will give a voice to the millions of Minnesotans who want to see the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior permanently protected from the threat of copper-sulfide mining.”

The new BWCA PAC is a pushback against Minnesota mining interests and Iron Range labor unions that support the hotly contested Twin Metals copper mine that Chilean mining giant Antofogasta wants to build just outside the Boundary Waters in northeast Minnesota. Through the PAC, the alliance can endorse candidates, for instance, and make direct campaign contributions up to $5,000.

One focus of the group will be races in Minnesota swing districts such as the outer suburbs of the Twin Cities, Knopf said.

The alliance — formerly called the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Action Network — said it plans to introduce a resolution at the local party caucuses Feb. 25 to adopt a moratorium on copper mining projects in northeastern Minnesota. The moratorium would run until a scientific review proves copper mining can be done safely in a watery region like northeast Minnesota without polluting the environment.

Nationally, Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg have said they support efforts expressed to protect the Boundary Waters from copper mining. Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar has not.

The alliance is opposed to both of the copper-nickel mining projects in play in Minnesota: PolyMet Mining’s open-pit mine near Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes, which was fully permitted but is now tied up in legal battles and investigations, and the Twin Metals project farther north and just outside the Boundary Waters. In December, Twin Metals submitted its formal plan to the state and federal regulators who must conduct an environmental review.