Sigurd F Olson believed that beauty could be destroyed by a sound or a thought. He spent his life championing protection of all wilderness, in particular the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area. He lived in Ely, Minnesota and built a cabin on Burntside Lake where he meditated and found peace. He knew that the appreciation of beauty was love at its essence, a profound appreciation of wilderness; and beauty, a necessity for our survival.
In northern Minnesota spans the wilderness he held so dear; and he lived his life in appreciation of wilderness through his writings and his advocacy. He helped spare the BWCA from an onslaught of interests that would have destroyed it through the construction of roads, permits for motor boats, planes and eventual development. Would he have failed to stand up to copper mining interests?
As Minnesotans and stewards of the Arrowhead, at heart of three of the greatest river systems in North America, we are on a precipice. What greater security is there than wilderness, clean water and air, the beauty and the silence of untouched wild areas? International interests, determined to mine copper in the big Stoney, the great Minnesota Arrowhead, seek permission to do so. Should we open this Pandora’s Box at any price?
Once copper sulfide mining has begun, the entire region, by precedent, will succumb to other like-mines in and surrounding the BWCAW, which lies on this prospect, that of the Duluth Gabbro Complex or the big Stoney. There are already over a thousand prospecting holes, which have been drilled at the boundary of the BWCAW and along Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake to date.
Estimations through computer modeling have determined that 20 years of the proposed Polymet mine would destroy at minimum 912.5 acres of irreplaceable wetlands at the mining site alone, and as a consequence flora and fauna dependent on these waters, leaving a toxic environment for hundreds of years, perhaps into perpetuity. The boundaries unknown.
Consider that the St Louis watershed consists of 3,696 square miles of mostly open wetlands and high quality habitat for plants and animals… including, as an example, the home of “100 Mile Swamp” between the two watersheds of Embarrass and Partridge rivers . St Louis River’s headwaters are located at Seven Beavers Lake near the proposed Hoyt Lakes processing plant and a few miles south of the mining site in corporate Babbitt. It’s headwaters flow for 179 miles before becoming a 12,000-acre freshwater estuary near Lake Superior, where it enters the body of the Great Lakes.
The mine site will be located in Babbitt, which hosts both the St Louis River watershed and the Rainy River watershed. Can we be assured that the water in contact with waste rock there and therefore, discharge of sulfuric acid and other contaminants will not be shed into the Rainy River Basin which contains the BWCAW, Voyageurs National Park, Vermilion Lake and River, Crane Lake and others?
The processing center, also, is located in a complicated geological area of the Laurentian Divide at Hoyt Lakes. The Embarrass River and the Partridge River on either side of this Divide will be affected. In addition, the Vermilion River watershed is adjacent to the Embarrass River watershed on the north. What long term effects will be seen here as well? This is one of many unknowns.
I feel certain that Sigurd Olson would have stood up to copper mining interests. He would have stood up to interests that threaten to destroy the wilderness of northern Minnesota. He spoke plainly and with an understanding that the battle goes on forever and that we must all have a hand in protecting wilderness.
Through blasting, transportation corridors, energy needs like the coal fired plant in Silver Bay, water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution … what will be left of this wilderness that we now know as the north woods of Minnesota? The smallest creatures, insects, fungus, flora, fauna will be poisoned by these mines and this will affect the larger creatures that depend upon them, like birds, deer, wolves, lynx, creatures great and small.
Polymet alone will be applying for over 20 permits. Included in these are “water appropriation permits”, which is a benign way of saying water mining permits, dam safety permitting, permits for taking endangered species and others needed to make this mine palatable.
For our national security, for the health of this planet, big Stoney of the “mother of waters”, Lake Superior, should be considered of far greater importance than any short term gains that may be had through mining this precious and priceless natural resource. Please let the National Forest Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Bureau of Land Management know that you do not want the St Louis River watershed and the Great Lakes to serve as a conduit for wastewater from a copper sulfide mine in the Arrowhead.
There are no guarantees but this, that water will find its way to the sea through our Great Lakes from these proposed mining operations. Are we prepared for the consequences? The health of this planet may be determined by our will to continue the fight.
Dear Commissioner Landwehr:
Re: NorthMet Dam Safety
I am writing to express my concerns about the recently released dam safety permits for the PolyMet Mine. There are insurmountable problems associated with these permits and the proposals made by Polymet, a company that has never operated a mine before and will not use the newest technology recommended by your agency’s contractors.
It is common knowledge that these earthen dams are unsafe and cannot, in all truth, be guaranteed to hold up over time, especially the hundreds of years that they will be expected to endure. They will eventually fail and release toxic sludge and pollution into the watershed below, a watershed without precedent, affecting communities and structures downstream to the Lake Superior basin and possibly into the Rainy River watershed.
The DNR is tasked to protect our resources for the benefit of Minnesotans. Does the DNR do this by permitting a private for-profit copper sulfide mine, the NorthMet project, to use a dam for its storage of toxic sludge and tailings that has weakened over the 40+ years of its life already, known to leak into the aquifer sending toxic waste downstream and into wetlands surrounding the area? What can be expected after 500 years?
Please say no to these dam safety permits and send an undeniable message to Minnesotans, who by the majority of comments do not want this toxic and hazardous project polluting our northern waters and ecosystem.
Anita Suzanne Dedman-Tillemans
October 12, 2017
Comment submitted October 12, 2017:
Like a beacon, under scrutiny for mining of copper resources, stands the Bristol Bay area. For thousands of years, supporting the long term health of communities, this area has been and continues to be a rich natural resource for fish and wildlife, including one of the richest salmon spawning grounds in the world. This proposal will remove the Proposed Determination of the US Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 Pursuant to Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act Pebble Deposit Area, Southwest Alaska (July 2014), which would have served to protect this watershed from exploitation and destructive practices; while the Pebble Limited Partnership, seeking private profit in a relatively short term, tells us that the area is depressed and people need jobs. This, they tell us, even though the jobs will be gone when the boom is over and the lands and waters fouled forever.
The associated earthen dam alone, which will be expected to hold toxic sludge and tailings byproducts from copper sulfide mining, into perpetuity, could not stand the test of time in this ecologically fragile area located in an earthquake zone. In addition, repercussions from an onslaught of torrential rains and weather conditions over time associated with a changing climate can be guaranteed. A failed dam would be tragic enough, but this does not preclude ongoing degradation during construction, operation and maintenance from blasting, transportation corridors, dewatering, dispersal of contaminants into the watershed, noise pollution and air pollution in the midst of a pristine invaluable natural environment. Fifteen years of research and study into a copper sulfide mine’s possible effects in this sensitive area have only made the proposed mine more toxic.
Copper-sulfide mining in the Bristol Bay watershed would be devastating on our fresh water resources, the health of communities who depend on this watershed, the flora, fauna, unspoiled lakes like Lake Iliamna, the long term profitability and viability of world class salmon and sports fishing, tourism and natural habitats. As if these things were not enough, how does monetary profit compare to true wealth? Do we choose short term boom and bust economies over the health of our planet? What is true wealth but an environment like that in the Bristol Bay watershed; and who in their right mind would give this up for any amount of financial gain? This watershed would be changed forever by permitting any copper sulfide mine to operate within its boundaries.
I formally and respectfully request that the proposal herewith to withdraw proposed 404(c) protections for the Bristol Bay area be denied. The withdrawal legalese found under the name “Proposed Determination to Restrict Use of Area as Disposal Site: Pebble Deposit Area, Southwest Alaska; Proposed Withdrawal” will allow the permitting process for this mine to begin, an outcome that we cannot sanction for the sake of future generations who depend upon decisions we make today.
Anita Suzanne Dedman-Tillemans
October 12, 2017
We are in a world of illusion in which words have become an important path by which the powerful rule. These words should surprise no one … and yet, truth be told, most of us want to believe that our particular truth or illusion is “the truth” and so, believe what suits us. As someone close to me once said, to paraphrase, “truth is variable.” With this view, as the old saying goes, we will fall for anything. Is this a problem or a necessity?
Is this what the cycle of life demands since everything, eventually, falls apart? Doing what seems to come naturally when predators rule may be impossible to avoid, the fear and ignorance that keeps us from seeing beyond the surface. In order to survive, though, isn’t it necessary that we conquer those fears that keep us in the dark?
Creative to a point, we may find solutions to immediate needs; but do we see beyond to a broader and more enduring perspective? Do we need to? Will we be capable of going beyond our own immediate, visceral needs to a higher and more meaningful way of living? Time it seems will tell.
I wonder what lies below the surface of our present dilemmas and apparent societal quandries? What might be possible if we stop believing, out of convenience, that truth is relative?
We see beauty for good reason – not simply as an abstract, but because it is a beacon so essential to life. With appreciation, we become stewards, moving in harmony with the seasons, accepting the nature of things, rather than seeking dominion. Through awareness, comes a morality that sustains us.
What is morality but good stewardship, a system that sustains and supports all life without judgment? When we are lost, beauty in many guises stands above all else to light our way. In the darkest of times, it is our appreciation that gives us strength and understanding. Where our paths will lead we cannot know, nor do we need to know. We see beauty, we know joy, and our lives are made whole.
The happiest people know this. They are ever-present and realize that the substance of their lives lies in the beauty of the spheres, moment to moment.
Black lives matter, of course, but we need action… and words can segregate us.
Language is a problem because when we claim one thing, then the opposite seems just as likely. Hard to fight the repercussions that come from these kind of statements. For instance, one might ask, if black lives matter then how about mine? I am a different color, not black. Does my life matter too? Why wasn’t my particular color, creed, gender … mentioned?
Of course, we know in retrospect what is meant and why it’s being said. Our hearts go out to all those who have suffered from prejudice and tyranny especially black lives in this country; that is, anyone with a heart feels the shame and the sadness.
Women have suffered, immigrants are suffering now in this country, children go to bed hungry at night, the poor, always, and this knows no boundaries, however defined. When will we learn as a community in mass that this kind of segregation happens not only in practice, but first in words.
(to be continued)
Comments submitted to the DNR on September 7, 2017
RE: “NorthMet Water Appropriation”
The guarantees are clear. The proposed North Met Project will mine tens of millions to over a billion gallons of water every year sent downstream, 10 percent of this untreated, to the Lake Superior Basin. This permit will allow the mine to pump billions of gallons of water from its site into streams in the St Louis watershed at the extreme headwaters of the St Lawrence Seaway in the Lake Superior Basin.
Even after closure, for an undetermined amount of time, the amount of water released from the mine naturally and otherwise will be in the millions of gallons annually, treated and untreated. Filters from “treated” water will be concentrated into a toxic sludge left behind in tailings ponds; and the water from this proposed copper-sulfide mine will need ongoing treatment perhaps forever. Effects from this toxic pollution will span centuries if not thousands of years.
Average annual water required for mine operations has been estimated at 275 gpm, or between 20-810 gpm (SDEIS report), which translates from 10,512,000 gallons of water per year to as much as 425,736,000 annually. This has been revised into the billions since then, for this permit. Greater than 90% of this water would be captured and treated using reverse osmosis, a process that poses its own risks, including demineralization (2006 by the World Health Organization’s report in Geneva, Nutrients in Drinking Water, Chapter 12), leaving anywhere from 1,0512,000 gallons to over 42.5 million gallons of untreated water that will be sent downstream from the plant (each year). This water appropriation permit will allow even more.
The Uplands in the Arrowhead of Northern Minnesota include varied and complex aquifers connected along pathways underground that have not been charted and cannot be known. This fact, coupled with the extreme weather variables of our times, should give anyone pause. For instance, there can be no guarantee that the earthen tailings ponds holding toxic waste sludge from Polymet’s proposed copper mine could withstand a 1000-year flood of the sort that inundated Houston Texas this year, in August 2017.
What cleanup would be possible of toxic buildup in streambeds and the inevitable contamination of flora, fauna and fungus over hundreds of years resulting from copper mining in this water-dependent, varied and complex ecosystem of the Arrowhead? The St Louis watershed is uniquely positioned and vulnerable to the toxic effects of a copper sulfide mine.
Water, one of the greatest solvents, can be guaranteed to seek its level through paths of least resistance, many unknown. The water in the St Louis watershed of the Laurentian Divide has been seeking its level over tens of thousands of years to the Hudson Bay Basin, the Mississippi River Basin and the Lake Superior Basin of the Great Lakes, through glacial waters of Lake Agassiz, other glacial lakes and the Laurentide Ice Shield. Just as naturally, the waste rock and toxic waste ponds from this proposed open pit mine will leach into the ground water; and through rains, ground water seepage, and faults in the bedrock find its way downstream, a guaranteed outcome that cannot be controlled or predicted accurately.
Polymet, admittedly, needs a water permit in order to pollute and mine these vital waters; but loss and degradation of these waters will only be the beginning. Since the proposed mine site is an important and complex recharge area, artesian wells could be depressurized and other ground water resources diverted or diminished unexpectedly. Tourism will suffer from the related activities of a large mining operation near the BWCA in Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes where blasting, processing, transportation of products and supplies, road construction and repair will be ongoing while the mine operates. Wetlands like the 100-Mile Swamp between Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes will ultimately be lost.
A copper mine, then, will change the surrounding landscape, since mining activities know no boundaries. The dimensions of this mine could change as deposits are discovered and, through precedent, threaten one of the most pristine water-dependent ecosystems, one of the wildest and most beautiful places in the world, the BWCA. There will be no end, once begun, and this will change the meaning of “north woods” as we know it. The Rainy River Watershed and throughout the big stony of the Arrowhead, where copper leases abound, the whole of St Louis, Cook and Lake counties could essentially be affected.
On a balance sheet, what is the price of real wealth, clean water, air, naturally fertile soil, insects, birds, mammals and all manner of life that support the health of this planet? What price freshwater? Are there truly any acceptable limits to the pollution and draining of the St Louis watershed?
Who, essentially, will profit in the long term by putting these freshwater resources at risk in order to permit this private for-profit enterprise, the NorthMet Project? It will certainly not be the air quality and the peace, environmental health, the integrity of this wilderness. What will be left if we allow any and all lands, no matter the cost, to be developed for the profit of a finite term at the degradation of the infinite?
I close here with my formal objection to this water appropriation permit. I make this objection on the grounds that this permit will allow mining operations in a water-dependent ecosystem that knows no equal, a wilderness that will be changed forever by copper mining. Mining and pollution of millions of gallons of water each year is not in the best interest of those who live in NE MN, those who live downstream, or those who depend on potable water, the wilderness, for its beauty, its wildlife, flora and fauna, its sustenance. We will all be less for having lost this gem by defaulting on our responsibility to raise the standards of protection for our freshwater.
Anita Suzanne Tillemans
Natural systems favor those who are the most well-adapted to their environment; while money ensures a limited pool through the implementation of an educational hierarchy.
Why is it so often true that the worst of us run the rest of us, causing the suffering of so many? Many of these leaders, as Benjamin Franklin put it in his famous oration of 1787 on “Dangers of a Salaried Bureaucracy,” are “the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits.”
In the beginning it is said, there was the Word; and human civilization, since, has been built on propaganda that favors the rich and powerful … language, then, the tool of those in power, ultimately determines the appropriation of quality educational resources as a result.
For a society to flourish, it is essential that all children have access to an equal education. It is particularly harmful to communities when women are denied this opportunity; because they are ultimately the ones tasked to raise, protect and educate their children, children who are more likely to suffer a harder life if she fails.
One of the most important choices a woman can make, then, one that determines her quality of existence, is the choice of a mate … better made with a sound foundation and education at the heart. With knowledge, she is more likely to choose a partner rather than a ruler; and as a result, she will, then, be more likely to build self esteem in her children.
As a consequence, there can be no better way to improve the condition of society than improving educational opportunity for women and girls. For, when a woman benefits, the whole of society benefits. Seeing to it that there are no “best schools”… all schools offering the best tools possible for everyone who enters in, boy or girl, man or woman, creates better odds that our leaders will be fit and that society will thrive.
Manipulated by propaganda that tells us self-worth is in our wallet, we lose a natural propensity for good sense. As my father said to me once: “The rich put their pants on one leg at a time too.” We know the truth but too often are swayed by the flashing lights.
Money will not make America great again … it’s the character of our citizens that will do this. We had a courageous leader in George Washington who believed that we must: Vindicate our rights with firmness and cultivate peace with sincerity. It will take courage to stand up to the powerful interests that prevail today; and to understand that power, to be respected, must have a base in truth and respect for all life. When we develop a society with equity in education, and dare to get money out of the political arena, perhaps we will have leadership that speaks to these values as well.
Over a century’s toll of mining iron ore in the uplands of the Laurentian Divide:
For the sake of our waters and the northern ecology of this priceless watershed, please send your comments by September 12, 2017 to:
If the garden of Eden was perfect in its realization, why was anything forbidden?
Timber wolves have long shared the wilderness with mankind and so it is in Northern Minnesota. If Polymet builds a copper mine in the Arrowhead of Minnesota, and sets the precedent for other companies to do the same, it becomes obvious, then, why the removal of wolves and others from the “endangered species” list has been such a persistent issue. In order to mine, the taking of endangered species becomes an added cost, since a permit must be issued for the taking.
Among the animals that have been taken from “endangered” to “threatened” are the gray wolf and the Canada lynx. I include just one link below.
Our water will be more than “threatened” by a mine in this wilderness, and so will the lives of all species in the area, whether “endangered”, “threatened” or not. A rose by any other name is still a rose.
As I have been all my life, in a query about the working of the world through art, writing, studies, observations … wondering just how far we will go, how far we can go in our quest to develop past a state of survival. With ever increasing populations and an insatiable desire to dominate the natural world out of fear, we seem destined to repeat the same mistakes … destroying the very thing that sustains us and nurtures us.
Will we continue to foul our water and air and destroy our canopy? Will we curb our population growth with respect so that we can sustain a life worth living for all species on this planet, through planning and wise management? What is life without the beauty that comes with diversity? What is life without kindness? What is life without truth? What is life when it comes so cheap with no respect? Will we eventually move toward stewardship not dominion? Sometimes I question whether we have any choice in our lives but the attitude we choose.
Life is a bed of roses, truly, but with thorns; and so it seems that the appreciation of beauty is, not only, as Thoreau believed, a “moral test” but essential to life. We all have trials, moments where the corruption in our justice system, political and social systems, or injustices and misfortunes on a more personal level seem to far outweigh the good in life … tests that promote a sort of pessimism and a cynicism that keeps us from appreciating the good that comes our way in each passing moment.
(The above case was fought four long years and I include my comments at the above link.)
I truly believe that it is wise to find joy, no matter what may come your way; and that the greatest joys are shared. It seems also true that beauty as it is, in the eye of the beholder, comes in many guises and needs an open mind and eyes wide open to see the truth.
May you find beauty in every day.
Some See Rainbows Acrylic on board 24″ X 48″ Anita S Tillemans
Understanding the true meaning of success was a journey through a maze of propaganda and a lifetime of searching for the truth. I searched in the first place because I understood viscerally that propaganda was leading me in the wrong direction. It did not make me happy to follow these trails. I did not find true wealth in money and material things. Truth for me was found in the humanity of a smile, the beauty of a sunset, the warmth of firelight … and so I found that success in my life was inextricably linked to beauty, and that knowledge of this truth was the only thing that could bring me the happiness so important for it realization. It required me to reach outside of myself into a larger landscape to fulfill the admonition:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Jesus of Nazareth
Truth and kindness, then, made its way into my formula for success. Suited to every individual bar none; and the difficulty lies within ourselves, our own ability to see beyond the mundane sphere of our lives to the greater world around us, in order to know true success.
What would this planet be like if we took it upon ourselves to make this our life’s mission; and if we understood that whatsoever we do to the most humble of us we do to ourselves?
It does not mean going out of our way to do good for others. Leave someone alone, if need be. Show respect as you would have it … a simple smile or a greeting. What would you want? What would you expect if you were in their place? This kind of success knows no boundaries and no static definition. It is defined by the people who live it.
For a better world.
On a walk through one of our parks a few years back, I noticed this growth on the trunk of a tree … a fairly reliable sign that the tree was dying. New growth from old on a day in October. It seemed poetic in all the splendor of that fall day.
It has long mystified many … just where some of the water from one of the dual falls of Devil’s Kettle on the Brule emerged after disappearing into a pothole. Sticks, many tossed, have not shown up downstream; and so, the tales persisted and curiosity was piqued.
Hydrologists’ tests measuring flow still show some disparity between the charge and emerging waters, 2 cubic feet per second approximately; and, as a consequence, this fall, a fluorescent dye will be poured into Devil’s Kettle’s pothole to see where this emerges downstream.
The “big stoney” and the Duluth Complex have formed over billions of years and many upheavals; and so the surface and the underlying ground and aquifers are very complicated mixes of many formations.