WASHINGTON – Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum is looking for help from Canada in pressing the U.S. State Department for a comprehensive assessment of how sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness could lead to water pollution that might impact a century-old treaty.
McCollum, a Democrat, currently has a bill in the House of Representatives to permanently ban copper-nickel mining on 234,000 acres of federal land near the Boundary Waters. In December, she sought a detailed State Department assessment of water pollution risks that could contaminate water in Canada as well as the U.S. Such pollution could violate a 1909 treaty that bound both countries not to pollute waters along their shared border.
McCollum said all she got back was an eight-paragraph statement from the State Department that would “be excellent for a grade school-level book report, but as a report to Congress it is an embarrassingly inadequate document.”
A spokeswoman for McCollum said McCollum’s staff had reviewed the report but was not allowed to copy it for public distribution, as part of the House Appropriations Committee rules for such reports.
In a news release Thursday, McCollum said she hoped “Canada’s elected leaders will call on the Trump administration to publicly release this confidential State Department report.”
The Trump administration has shown support for mining near the Boundary Waters. In 2019, it overturned a decision by the Obama administration that did not renew mining leases for Twin Metals Minnesota, a company that wants to build a sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine on land near the Boundary Waters. The administration, and Republican Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents the area, say the need for good-paying mining jobs and strict environmental rules already in place outweigh pollution risks.