ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

American Rivers group names St. Louis River among top 10 ‘most endangered’

The national environmental group American Rivers has named the St. Louis River in Northeastern Minnesota among the nation's 10 most-endangered streams because of the threat of proposed copper-nickel mining.

1648544+web st louis river March 17_0277.jpg

The national environmental group American Rivers has named the St. Louis River in Northeastern Minnesota among the nation’s 10 most-endangered streams because of the threat of proposed copper-nickel mining.

In its annual report on rivers facing troubles, the group says it is “shining a national spotlight on the threat a proposed copper and nickel mine poses to clean water, fish and wildlife, and cultural values.”

The report, made public this week, specifically lists the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, which would discharge tailings basin water into the Partridge River, a tributary of the St. Louis. The report presumes PolyMet could be a future source of acid mine runoff that could leach heavy metals into the river and increase the river’s load of toxic mercury. The project also will require filling or destroying hundreds of acres of wetlands, the report notes, and could release excess sulfate into the rivers, harming wild rice.

“We can’t afford to destroy the largest river feeding Lake Superior,’’ Jessie Thomas-Blate of American Rivers said in a prepared statement. “This mine would cause irreparable damage to the river and the local economy and communities.”

State and federal agencies are expected to decide within weeks whether the environmental review for the project is complete enough to allow the company to apply for permits to start the mine. Permits could be issued later this year with work on the mine and processing plant starting soon thereafter.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is working hard to restore and protect the river for future generations,” said Karen Diver, the Band’s chairwoman, in a statement, adding that problems exist on the river because of taconite iron ore mining even before any copper mine might begin. “Meanwhile, the state and federal agencies whose primary responsibility is to enforce the Clean Water Act are not doing all they can or should to regulate pollution, and companies continue to pollute the water without limits. This endangered river designation should cause all Minnesotans to join the Band in its effort to restore the river.”

Bruce Richardson, PolyMet spokesman, said the company will meet all water quality regulations and won’t degrade the river.

The St. Louis River is the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, draining 3,634 square miles.

What To Read Next
The Wilderness still haven't solved Wisconsin in four attempts
The 28th induction ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, May 4.
Hermantown alum Beau Janzig had an assist on Hunter Bulger’s game-winning goal.
Cloquet High School grad Aidan Ripp was one of six student-athletes competing for Team USA in the Nordic Combined event at the 2023 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid, New York.