Boundary Waters – Frequently Asked Questions

BoundaryWatersFisherman600x400What is the Boundary Waters?
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is America’s most visited Wilderness area. It contains more than 1 million acres of pristine water and unspoiled woodlands, home to fish and wildlife. Along with the Superior National Forest, the BWCAW contains 20 percent of all the fresh water in the entire National Forest System. That prized water is what supports the walleye, bass and pike that draw fishermen to the area.

Are the Boundary Waters popular with tourists?
Yes. Tourism in northeastern Minnesota generates $852 million per year in sales revenue and supports 18,000 jobs that provide a foundation for local families and businesses.

What is Sulfide mining?
Sulfide mining extracts copper, nickel, and other metals from sulfide ores. As a result of the extraction process, sulfide mining produces giant waste piles that, when exposed to air and water, release sulfuric acid, heavy metals, and sulfates which very often pollute groundwater, rivers, and lakes.

Why is sulfide mining bad for fishermen?
Acid mine drainage, heavy metals and associated pollutants harm aquatic plants and fish. Acid mine drainage also increases the acidity of waters. As acidity increases, certain species will be unable to survive. Minnows are impacted first, followed by walleye, northerns, smallmouth bass, and trout.

In the history of sulfide mining, has pollution ever been avoided?

Have there ever been accidents at similar mines?
Yes. In August 2014, the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in British Columbia had a tailings dam breach that released 4.5 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into a lake and river system that was a priceless salmon spawning area. At about the same time, a mine in Mexico spilled 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution into two rivers, wiping out the water supply for a vast rural area that depended on the river water for domestic use and agriculture. In both cases, fish and wildlife were devastated.


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