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POLL: Minnesota opposed to mining near Boundary Waters Canoe Area, but it, too, is somewhat political

Rick Solem

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Apparently, even mining near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is political.

In a new Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota poll, 60 percent of registered voters oppose building new mines near the federally protected wilderness, while 22 percent support it.

But, among Democrats, that number jumped to 80 percent opposed, while it dipped to just 37 percent for Republicans.

Aside from that divide, opposition was fairly consistent based on region, age, income and education, with a range between 54-69 percent against mining near the Boundary Waters.

Voters also made the environment itself a priority, when asked if providing jobs or protecting the environment was more important when it comes to mining. The enviornment won with 66 percent of the vote statewide, while 19 percent said jobs were more important.

That number dipped to 60 percent for the enviornment and 23 percent for jobs, near the Boundary Waters and Minnesota’s taconite mining industry.

Minnesota is in an ongoing battle over two mining projects, opening up the state to “nonferrous” mining, which carries a much greater pollution risk than taconite and irone ore mining.

Along with the Twin Metals mine — owned by Chile’s Antofogasta, which has history of environmental disasters — near the Boundary Waters, there is also a proposed PolyMet mine — owned by Switzerland’s Glencore, which has its own issues with pollution and labor — near the Lake Superior watershed.

The metals sought in these mines are embedded in sulfide-bearing ore, which creates an acid when exposed to air and water that can leach heavy metals and other contaminants, the Star Tribune reported.

The poll did not name either project.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat who represents the 4th Congressional District, proposed a bill that would permanently ban new copper-nickel mining over about 365 square miles of the Superior National Forest, in the watershed of the Boundary Waters.

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