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4: May 7, 2024

3: February 15, 2024

2: December 14, 2023

1: November 9, 2023


Issue 4, May 7, 2024



Celebrating our Community

Evan Zimmermann


Farming For Health, Community & Resiliency

By Randy Buchler, Shady Grove Farm


Greywater for a Greener Future

By Gracie Anzaldua


Celebrating our Community

Evan Zimmermann, UPEC


As Spring begins, we celebrate all the ways our community contributes to our interconnected world. UPEC recently hosted our annual Celebrate the U.P.! event at the historic Orpheum Theater in Hancock, where we welcomed experts on our theme of Critical Lands/Critical Minerals. Karen Brzys of Agatelady Rock Shop brought over twenty years of mineral experience as our keynote speaker. Steve Waller made carbon capture forests accessible. Thomas D. Peacock read us a narrative about wolves weaving Indigenous traditions with modern insight, and Raymond Weglarz took us on a journey through the wild rivers and logjams of the woods. It’s people like these who live and share the wild places in our home and hearts that make me so proud to live in the U.P.


In this issue, we welcome contributions from people who are forging ahead with insights into how we can live differently, stepping more lightly on the Earth and creating a sustainable and resilient future for all of us. I’m grateful to be able to present these insights from our community members who have taken steps forward as examples of how we can continually rethink our relationship to the living systems and natural resources all around us to live better lives and leave the world a little better for having had us in it.


Farming For Health, Community & Resiliency

Randy Buchler, Shady Grove Farm


A group of people preparing food


It’s a chilly spring morning with the sun peeking over the trees and sharing its warmth. As I sip on a cup of local coffee from my press, I think about today’s to-do list for the farm. It’s the beginning of a new season here at Shady Grove Farm. I must prepare my livestock areas for seeding and get the brooder ready for 80 broiler chicks coming soon from a nearby hatchery. None of this can happen until after morning chores. This is an exciting time of year, watching everything come back to life. Egg production is finally full speed ahead, which is crucial because eggs are the financial backbone of our integrative and regenerative permaculture system.

For the last 20+ years, we’ve been building a farming system that works with nature. Making some mistakes along the way, Mother Nature quickly suggests something is not working and we adjust. Having an awareness of this is a crucial part of regenerative agriculture. Through that awareness, we’ve been successful in creating a system that has seen several species of life come back to the property. I now see salamanders, several species of snakes, butterflies, pollinators, frogs, toads, birds, dragonflies, lots of different mushrooms and even hummingbird moths! It’s been incredible to see the diversity multiply over the years. Much of this also has to do with significantly improving soil health by meticulously managing animal manure and bedding through a specific composting process to create life at the microbiological scale that benefits all living organisms.

That leads me to one of the key elements of diversity when it comes to Permaculture design, which is the concept of Polyculture. Simply put, this is raising more than one species of plants and/or animals at the same time and in the same system. The idea is to have a complex web of life that are beneficial to one another, allowing the system to thrive. Our system includes chickens, turkeys, sheep and pigs, mushrooms, and a wide array of annual and perennial plants, flowers and fruit trees, many of which are grown on hügelkultur mounds and some of which are grown in season extension greenhouses. The manure from the animals, after composting, comes back into the system in the form of living soil, which aids the system in maintaining a healthy foundation.

In addition to the manure, the entrails, blood, bones and feathers of the animals that I harvest on site are incredibly valuable inputs. Every animal that is raised for food is harvested with a zero-waste set of standards. 100% of every animal gets used, whether it’s by us, the dogs, the chickens or the compost piles… it all goes back into the system. This is all something I’ve been teaching community members for years, via free workshops.

One of the most important aspects of being a farmer, for me, is sharing knowledge and teaching these skill sets to our community. This not only helps others in being able to achieve success in their own homesteading endeavors, but it also helps create resiliency as a community and fuels our local food system. If we have many small farms like this in every community, along with community members learning the skills, we greatly reduce our dependency on an unstable and unhealthy industrial scale food system. Together we can take our food system back!


A group of eggs in baskets

Greywater for a Greener Future

Gracie Anzaldua


Raising awareness in the Marquette community for water conservation by utilizing water recycling initiatives is a promising alternative to decrease overconsumption of fresh water. As demand for freshwater increases with the growing population and climate change impacts, it is crucial to proactively create water conservation techniques, such as the use of greywater systems. The term greywater refers to the domestic use of wastewater, which can be implemented as a substitution for consumable freshwater in utilities such as sink water and irrigation of green spaces, in addition to flushing toilets. Greywater helps to relieve pressure of freshwater consumption and is an effective source of water for universities, businesses and households.


The Marquette Food Co-op is a local business in Marquette, MI, that has installed two simple water catchment systems for collecting rainwater to irrigate green spaces, and refrigeration condensation to flush toilets, in attempts to decrease waste of freshwater. Conserving freshwater by using greywater as a substitute, or supporting local businesses that apply this initiative, are possible options for members of the Marquette community to become more water conscious. Recycling and repurposing freshwater is crucial even in the Great Lakes region where reusing greywater will not only stimulate the local economy, but also reduce overconsumption of freshwater.


The greywater collected annually in the Marquette Food Co-op’s catchment system showcases a small-scale example for how cost effective this initiative is, and can be useful information for other businesses or households to determine if this is a feasible option.


Using data gathered from a daily experiment in order to figure out how much this building is using annually, it was found that the Marquette Food Co-op relies on 5.5% of their water usage being greywater. While this percentage is seemingly insignificant, the Marquette Food Co-op is conserving 31,200 gallons of water per year, heading towards a greener future. Based on the results of the daily data collection at the Marquette Food Co-op and annual greywater usage, this initiative would have a positive impact at a facility of large-scale. While the annual greywater amount saved appears to be insignificant, the long-term impacts are substantial compared to exclusively investing in city water.


A building with a sign on the side of it





Issue 3, February 15, 2024



Tilden Mine Threatens To Destroy ‘Oldest Structures In Michigan’

By Kathleen Heideman, UPEC Mining Action Group


Michigan considering $50M grant to Copperwood Mine

ByTom Grotewohl,


A Look at Michigan’s New Clean Energy Legislation

By Abry Waters, CSCLS


Nature’s Kidneys Need Local Protection

By Jane Fitkin, CSCLS


Stannard Rock Lighthouse: How the Superior Watershed Partnership is Studying Climate Change from the Loneliest Place in North America

By Superior Watershed Partnership






Tilden Mine Threatens To Destroy ‘Oldest Structures In Michigan’

Kathleen Heideman, UPEC Mining Action Group


Have you heard that Tilden Mine is seeking a permit that would bury a landscape of historic beaver ponds under a mountain of waste rock — beaver dams that have been described as ‘Michigan’s Oldest Structures’? The Tilden Mine Expansion would permanently destroy 300+ acres of land, 78 acres of wetlands, several freshwater ponds, and nearly a mile of tributary streams feeding Ely Creek. This is a landscape of historic eco-cultural importance, as it was meticulously documented in Lewis Henry Morgan’s book “The American Beaver and His Works,” published in 1868. Morgan’s favorite site was a beaver dam on Grass Lake, which he described in his journal as "by far the largest and most extraordinary Beaver structure I have seen and perhaps is not exceeded by any in the country.” The Grass Lake site falls within the Tilden Mine Expansion area.


The ever-growing environmental footprint of iron mining is nothing new, of course:  Tilden Mine and the neighboring Empire Mine are so large they can be seen from space. Both iron mines are owned by Cliffs.


Clearly, the TIlden Mine Expansion proposal will have an enormous environmental impact — whether that scope is measured by acreage of buried wetlands and lost streams, tons of waste rock to be dumped over acres of undeveloped lands, the damages to ecological systems and the species living in this area, or water quality concerns within the watershed, including selenium and mercury contamination. We believe that cumulative environmental impacts must be considered, including a long history of interconnected permitting actions that have been piecemealed in the past. 


Join UPEC’s LiveStream for an overview of the Tilden Mine Expansion permits, and the environmental impacts of the project, tips on preparing public comments, and how to participate in the online Public Hearing scheduled for February 28th.



To review the permit, download the application from Michigan’s MiEnviro Public Notice portal:

A black and white photo of a swamp

Historic illustration of Tilden Mine Expansion project area, found in Lewis Henry Morgan’s book “The American Beaver and His Works,” 1868.


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Michigan considering $50M grant to Copperwood Mine

Tom Grotewohl,


On January 30th, the Michigan Strategic Fund nearly passed a $50M grant to the Copperwood Mine. You read that right: your taxpayer dollars, paying for a foreign company’s sulfide mine, the closest in history to Lake Superior, next door to both the North Country Trail and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.


Fortunately, a few MSF board members expressed doubts, and the grant was deferred to an expedited subcommittee. The grant must be re-submitted for a vote at the next MSF board meeting on February 27th. Registration to make a public comment is now open. We encourage everyone who cares about protecting freshwater seas and wild spaces to make a comment, either virtually at the meeting or via e-mail in the days preceding.


The grant was developed over the course of a year by the MSF’s parent organization, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The MEDC is also the creator of the “Pure Michigan” campaign, which celebrates our beautiful natural areas and promotes outdoor recreation. Some would say that for the very same group to propose funding Copperwood, the campaign might best be rebranded as “Pure Hypocrisy.” But anyway, it is worth noting that the MSF did not immediately approve a proposal by their own parent company, as they have done in nearly every other case. This suggests that the level of doubt is already significant, so the role of our public comments should be to amplify it further.


The MSF Board Members are hardcore businessfolk. They do not necessarily care about noise pollution and light pollution. They do not necessarily know what a Tailings Disposal Facility is. But they do care about the soundness of their investment. At the January 30th board meeting, these principle concerns were raised: 


We have several other arguments to add to that list, as presented at our Call to Action page, and also in our recent video, “Dear Michigan.” We encourage you to attend one of our upcoming Zoom strategizing sessions, in which we will provide materials and assist in the crafting of public comments to be presented at the February 27th MSF board meeting.


Finally, because the Michigan Strategic Fund board members were appointed directly by the Governor, we are asking everyone to contact her as soon as possible and demand a rejection of the Copperwood grant.


Please remember: there are very few humans who live in this area, so if we want to win, it will require the help of folks from both near and far. As a reminder of what’s on the line:


—Highland Copper has plans to mine beneath Section 5 on Porcupine Mountains State Park property. Once this precedent is set, they may eventually seek to mine on the other side of the Presque Isle River.


A map of a section 5


—The Grade Distribution Map clearly shows that the best copper is closest to the Lake. For now they plan to mine up to 100 ft from the lakeshore, but their own Feasibility Report states, “This setback distance is more related to permitting as mining beneath the lake is possible." (pg290)

A map of copper grade distribution

A Look at Michigan’s New Clean Energy Legislation

By Abry Waters, CSCLS


A group of people standing around a table

On November 28th, 2023, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into effect the Clean Energy and Climate Action Package, a set of four bills meant to transition Michigan’s energy grid to renewables by 2040. These new measures are a part of Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate plan and place Michigan next to over twenty other US states making plans for more clean energy standards within the next couple of decades. In a press release, the governor highlighted the positive impact the package will have on the state: “Together, we are fighting for our air, land, and water, improving public health and protecting our precious natural resources for future generations. We are building the future in Michigan.”

The four signed bills, which will go into effect before the end of 2024, include: 

Senate Bill 273, which will require an increase in energy efficiency savings from 1% to 1.5% for utilities in Michigan; 

Senate Bill 502, which requires the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to prioritize new goals including service quality, affordability, cost-effectiveness and equitable access when reviewing utility-integrated resource plans, and increases accessibility for public participation in MPSC cases; 

Senate Bill 519, which creates the Michigan Community and Worker Economic Transition Office in the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to assist workers and communities in the transition from fossil fuels to electric technology; and 

Senate Bill 277, which codifies a current state rule allowing farmers to lease their land for solar projects while staying enrolled in the state’s farmland preservation program. 

Some of the package’s major focuses include increased energy storage and efficiency standards throughout the state, increased support for energy workers and their communities, and the requirement for energy utilities to obtain an 80% “clean energy” portfolio within the next two decades. The aim is to create more opportunities for renewable energy usage and decarbonization of utilities through the state. 

These changes are making strides in the fight against climate change in Michigan; however, not everyone is in favor of the bill's contents in their entirety, and some aspects of the package are receiving criticism from politicians and environmental groups. For one, S.B. 271 states that “clean energy” includes nuclear and fossil ‘natural’ gas power, neither of which are actually clean. Another topic of criticism for the bills was the possibility that this change over the next couple of decades could increase energy costs for Michigan companies and Michigan residents, although this point has arguments on both sides.

For UP residents, lack of local control over renewables infrastructure has been a key point of opposition against the package. Specifically under fire is S.B. 502, since it gives the MPSC authority to bypass local governments when placing renewable energy projects. State Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Houghton) spoke on Yoopers' desire for freedom while also maintaining access to affordable and reliable energy; so much of the Upper Peninsula is undeveloped, and many UP residents don’t want to see those natural areas taken away for solar and wind farms. 

The Michigan Healthy Climate Plan, along with the Clean Energy and Climate Action Package, demonstrate a desire within Michigan’s state government to advocate for the health of our environment. The job is nowhere near done, as there are still issues needing to be addressed in the current system and important points not addressed in these bills. Ultimately, though, this plan represents significant progress toward mitigating climate change and creating more opportunities for clean energy use across the state - as well as the collaboration between state leaders and environmental advocates towards a cleaner Michigan in the future.

Nature’s Kidneys Need Local Protection

By Jane Fitkin, CSCLS


A wooden bridge over water

Wetlands are an incredibly important piece of every environment here in the UP. Acting as “nature’s kidneys”, they are essential for water quality as they filter pollutants and remove nutrients. Wetlands are also necessary for flood and erosion mitigation as their soil absorbs and retains more water than other soil types, and critical for habitat and spawning grounds for many different species of flora and fauna. Even small, isolated wetlands effectively provide these functions. 

Wetlands once made up 32% of all land across the Upper Peninsula. However, due largely to historical mining and logging industrialization and nowadays to residential and commercial development, nearly 900,000 acres of wetlands have been destroyed in the UP, a 22% loss. Every county in the UP experiences significant wetland degradation, and loss is concentrated most heavily in Ontonagon County, which has lost 70% (147,848 acres) of its wetlands to date. 

In June 2023, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Sackett v EPA, a case originally about whether a couple could fill some wetlands to build a house near a lake, which turned into the Court further limiting the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA). In a 5-4 decision, the Court 

redefined the CWA’s coverage of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to cover only (1) relatively permanent bodies of water – like streams, rivers, and lakes – connected to traditional navigable waters, and (2) wetlands which have a continuous surface connection to those waters. The “continuous surface connection” test means the wetland must be virtually indistinguishable from the navigable, or boatable, body of water, to be protected under WOTUS. This decision severely limits the EPA’s ability to require permits for wetland impacts, removing authority for around 90 million acres of wetlands nationwide, and poses consequences for other water protections as well. 

Luckily, Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (“EGLE”) has an agreement with the EPA giving them authority to administer the federal wetland program as well as its own state-level program. The state has fairly strong wetland regulations, and is able to pass stronger environmental protections than the federal government due to a law passed in 2023 which reversed a “no stricter than federal” law from 2018. This reduces the daunting effects of Sackett in Michigan. However, legal analysis and education jumpstarted by the Sackett decision illuminate the gaps in Michigan’s state-level regulations and highlight the need for local protection. 

State-level wetland protection is administered by EGLE through Part 303 of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, originally passed in 1979. Part 303 requires landowners to obtain a permit from EGLE before impacting a regulated wetland, and contains a

mitigation component requiring most regulated wetland impacts to be offset by wetland restoration or creation elsewhere. Impacts requiring permits include filling, dredging, draining, or building in a wetland. For a wetland to have protection under Part 303, it must:

  Be situated within 1000 feet of a Great Lake; 

Be situated within 500 feet of an inland lake or stream; 

Be 5 acres or larger in size; or 

Be determined by EGLE as essential to the preservation of the state’s natural resources. 

While these criteria provide regulatory protection for many of the wetlands in the UP, they don’t offer full protection, as made clear through Michigan’s extensive wetland loss. Notably, these criteria prevent the state from regulating wetlands smaller than 5 acres if they’re not connected to lakes or streams. This has and continues to allow landowners and developers to destroy small, isolated wetlands, without a permit, unless local protections come into play. Also, though they often propose changes to applications, EGLE rarely denies permits when completed fully and correctly. Additionally, exempted from regulation are wetland impacts due to ongoing farming, ongoing grazing, logging, drain maintenance, fishing, hunting, trapping, boating and other recreational activities. 

That’s where local protections can come in. Local governments are able to pass Wetland Ordinances to regulate those wetlands protected by the state, as well as isolated wetlands between 2-5 acres in size, and those smaller than 2 acres but which are critical to the preservation of the community’s natural resources. There’s even a sample ordinance on EGLE’s website. Despite this, not a single municipality in the UP has passed a Wetland Protection Ordinance (though some have setback requirements including wetlands). 

As a state deriving so much of its culture and pride from our clean freshwater, we sure should be doing everything we can to protect our ecosystems’ kidneys.


Stannard Rock Lighthouse: How the Superior Watershed Partnership is Studying Climate Change from the Loneliest Place in North America

By Superior Watershed Partnership


A lighthouse in the water


Have you ever looked out over Lake Superior’s surface and found yourself unable to spot land in any direction? Many miles from the nearest shore, a 110-foot tower juts from Lake Superior; Stannard Rock Lighthouse. Nicknamed “the loneliest place in North America” by the keepers who lived and worked at the station for the first eighty years of its life, Stannard is a one of a kind piece of Great Lakes maritime history currently playing a crucial role in understanding the climate crisis’ impact on Lake Superior and coastal communities. 

Stannard marks the location of a massive reef forty-two miles north of Marquette and twenty-five miles southeast of Keweenaw Point. The marine construction project took over five years as builders battled Lake Superior’s lashing waves and winds; upon completion in 1882, Stannard Rock Lighthouse was dubbed a top ten engineering feat in American history. And for good reason. Stannard is the most distant lighthouse from any shore in North America, bringing unique challenges to even its basic operations. 


A lighthouse in the water

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In 1961, tragedy struck when fuel stored in the station’s pier ignited, causing an explosion and fire that killed one keeper and stranded the remaining three on Stannard’s exposed deck. The survivors waited three days before being rescued by a passing vessel. The following year, the lighthouse was automated. However, as improved navigation technology reduced reliance on lighthouses, Stannard’s future fell further into question. 

While other lighthouses in the Great Lakes have become valued purely for their historical qualities, Stannard’s location makes it uniquely suitable for long-term climate research. In 2015, the federal government transferred ownership of Stannard Rock Lighthouse to the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP). Through domestic and international partnerships, the SWP has brought together programming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Great Lakes Evaporation Network to study wind speeds, wave intensity, evaporation, and other variables critical for understanding climate change on Lake Superior. Unlike other monitoring stations that can’t withstand Superior’s winter storms and ice, Stannard Rock Lighthouse provides real-time data throughout the entire year. In 2017, sensors tracked 77 mile per hour winds along with a 28.8 foot wave; the largest ever recorded on Lake Superior!

In addition to the research mission, the SWP is working to restore Stannard, preserving its historic value as well as expanding its capabilities as a research station. Each summer, the SWP’s Great Lakes Climate Corps (GLCC) program coordinates teams of young adults to visit the station. These crews clean, paint, and do other upkeep tasks while on site. However, the lighthouse requires major renovations. The SWP is currently fundraising for these projects; check out this webpage to learn more about the restoration project and this link to donate! With your help, future generations will be able to experience Stannard’s unique perspective on an irreplaceable lake and benefit from the crucial insight it provides on our changing climate. 

A lighthouse with people standing on top of it

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Issue 2, December 14, 2023



Reflecting on Stopping the Rocket by Jane Fitkin,


OWDM Responds to MPSC Decision on Line 5 Permit by David Holtz


Enbridge Line 3's aquifer breaches: A summary by Scott Russell and Waadookawaad Amikwag

How many drops in a tidal wave? by Chris Vaughn


Reflecting on Stopping the Rocket


By Jane Fitkin,


After a 3-year long campaign to Stop the Rocket, the Powell Township Board passed a resolution late last month making it clear that a spaceport has no place at Granot Loma. This is a satisfying conclusion to the conversation initiated by citizens and organized by Citizens for a Safe & Clean Lake Superior (CSCLS). But, how did we get here?


In 2018, in the outgoing days of Governor Rick Snyder's administration, Gavin Brown of the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) convinced Snyder to give him $2.5 million for site selection and feasibility studies for his Michigan Launch Initiative (MLI). The MLI was touted to include the creation of both vertical and horizontal launch sites in Michigan, as well as a command and control center for them elsewhere in the state. MAMA misled Marquette County officials, saying it was interested in the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base for either the horizontal or vertical launch site. The County was excited, seeing a potentially promising use for the abandoned base, and quickly garnered support from municipalities, businesses, citizens, and even environmental groups for the project.


That was, until May 2020, when Brown and County officials stood on the steps of the County Courthouse to announce that a location had been chosen for a vertical launch site. However, the announcement took everyone by surprise: it wasn't K.I. Sawyer that had been chosen, but Granot Loma, a scenic, private stretch of Lake Superior shoreline between Marquette and Big Bay. Public opposition to the new site selection quickly mounted, fueled by a petition that has now garnered over 26,000 signatures, but the County as well as MAMA stood confidently behind their decision, telling us we would see rockets launching from Granot Loma by 2025.


CSCLS formed in the fall of 2020, presenting coordinated opposition to the Granot Loma spaceport plan. We mobilized quickly to gather information to squash this project. Through numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, CSCLS has been able to uncover and share with the public information demonstrating that this plan was not only unneeded, but also extremely destructive to our environment, our recreation-based economy, and our quality of life here in the UP. 


For example, as bait to persuade County officials to support the MLI, MAMA falsely promised 40,000 new jobs statewide and thousands for the UP. However, using FOIA, CSCLS uncovered an independent study that MAMA was required to commission as part of the grant, but then tried to hide, which definitively debunked that false economic benefit claim. That report by the IQM Research Institute of Ann Arbor found that a spaceport in Marquette County was "not self-sustaining nor economically viable," and would realistically bring negligible annual revenue statewide.


Following the release of the IQM report, Brown and MAMA got quiet. We've actually heard almost nothing from them since. They obviously didn't want that report to get out, and it no doubt had a severely negative impact on their fundraising efforts and public image. But, as experienced environmental campaigners know, just because a project goes quiet doesn't mean it's over. So CSCLS didn't stop working. 


In 2023, CSCLS initiated a citizen petition to amend Powell Township's Zoning Ordinance to explicitly prohibit rocket launch sites. Initially submitted in July 2023, and armed with the signatures of 177 Powell Township residents, the petition produced successful negotiations with the Township Board. This resulted in the passage of an official resolution finding that the spaceport would be "inconsistent with current and future land uses and planning goals as defined in the Master Plan of the Township." From now on, whether it's MAMA or another aerospace lobbyist trying to industrialize more of the Superior lakeshore for launching rockets, they'll have effectively impossible hurdles to jump through.


Looking back on our efforts over the past 3 years, three words come to mind: community, persistence, and courage. This organization is operated and supported by the community here. We've had challenges and been bullied, but haven't ever backed down. And we didn't let go until the job was finished.



OWDM Responds to MPSC Decision on Line 5 Permit


By David Holtz, Oil and Water Don't Mix,


MICHIGAN: The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) announced today that they are approving siting for Enbridge's Line 5 Great Lakes expansion project, the largest underwater hazardous liquids tunnel ever proposed, in the worst spot in the Great Lakes for an oil spill. In response, Sean McBrearty, Oil and Water Don't Mix campaign coordinator, issued the following statement


'With this action, the Michigan Public Service Commission is putting Michigan in uncharted, dangerous territory while ignoring warnings by independent industry experts who testified during the MPSC's proceedings; never before has an oil tunnel that also carries other hazardous liquids been built in one of the most ecologically sensitive spots on Earth. 


'The proposed tunnel must still pass a comprehensive federal environmental study before moving forward and there is still an open question whether Enbridge intends to build the tunnel or is simply using the project as a diversion and delay from shutting down the existing twin oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. As recently as October, an independent study determined the tunnel and Line 5 is not needed. Moreover, the Line 5 tunnel will worsen the impacts of the climate crisis by adding 27 million metric tons of polluting and climate altering carbon into the atmosphere, equivalent to ten coal-fired power plants. 


'The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now working on the third and final permitting decision for the Line 5 carbon bomb tunnel. Families, businesses, and Michigan communities cannot be left out of this decision-making process. What they need is immediate action, and President Joe Biden could do that right now by revoking the presidential permit for Line 5.' 



Enbridge Line 3's aquifer breaches: A summary

By Scott Russell and Waadookawaad Amikwag,, edited by Evan Zimmermann.


A construction site with heavy machinery

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Sheet pilings laid out at a Line 3 worksite, June, 2021.


Line 3 construction ended Oct. 1, 2021. State regulators have been slow to announce all the environmental damage that occurred. They say they don't release information until they finish their investigations.


Line 3's 337-mile route went through 78 miles of wetlands. Line 3 also crosses lands with shallow artesian aquifers, areas where groundwater is held underground, under pressure, by an impervious confining layer such as clay. Break the clay seal with sheet piling and the water rushes to the surface. So far, we know of four artesian aquifer breaches: Clearbrook, LaSalle Valley, the Fond du Lac Reservation, and Moose Lake. 


With three of the breaches, Clearbrook, LaSalle Valley, and Fond du Lac, Enbridge pumped grout (think cement) into the ground to try to plug them. Such Slap-Dash Efforts at LaSalle Valley and Fond du Lac haven't been successful, probably doing more harm than good.


This summary includes Enbridge's estimates on the amount of groundwater released by each breach. These underestimate the problem. These breaches occurred 12- to 39-feet underwater in wetlands. The groundwater released by the breach doesn't necessarily all come to the surface in one spot where it can be measured. It can diffuse into the wetland before it reaches the surface, making it impossible to track.


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Workers used grout to try to plug the Clearbrook aquifer breach. Image:
Enbridge report to the DNR and MPCA.


Site: The Clearbrook breach occurred in Clearwater County in 1855 Treaty Territory. It's near the Clearbrook Terminal, Enbridge's crude oil storage tank farm. The breach also is a half mile from a rare 'calcareous fen.'


Cause: Enbridge said it would dig an eight-foot-deep trench, the DNR wrote in its Sept. 16, 2021 administrative penalty order. Instead, workers dug an eighteen-foot-deep trench and installed sheet pilings 28-feet deep, breaching the artesian aquifer's confining layer, which was approximately 18-feet deep.


Groundwater release: 72.8 million gallons, according to Enbridge's estimates.


Slap-Dash Effort: Enbridge injected 547,692 gallons of grout underground to plug the breach, according to Enbridge's Feb. 15, 2022 Corrective Action Implementation Report. (That's enough grout to build a wall two-feet thick, 20-feet tall, and more than a third of a mile long.)


Other things to know:


The public is in the dark about why this happened: It is unclear why Enbridge deviated so far from its construction plan, or if the DNR has pressed the company for answers. The public deserves to know.


Enbridge was responsible to report the breech to the DNR immediately. It withheld the information for 140 days. Even then, DNR staff only learned about the breach indirectly, according to the Sept. 16, 2021 DNR Restoration and Replacement Order.


Enbridge's Slap-Dash Efforts were slow: It would take Enbridge one year from the date of the breach to finish work trying to plug the breach almost four months after it finished Line 3/93 construction. At last report, the breach was releasing small amounts of groundwater.


Criminal charges were inadequate: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed one misdemeanor charge against Enbridge for appropriating waters without a permit. Enbridge admitted its role in the breach, the Attorney General's Office said. Enbridge also admitted to delaying notification to the DNR. Enbridge paid a $1,000 fine, and entered into a diversion program. If Enbridge remained law-abiding for a year, the state would dismiss the charges. 'Unless and until the Legislature changes the law, a misdemeanor is the only charge against Enbridge the State can support,' Ellison said in a statement.


Potential damage to rare fens: The breach's 'uncontrolled flow has reduced groundwater resources supplying the fens,' the DNR wrote. Fens are very susceptible to disturbance. The loss of groundwater from the breach could allow invasive plants to out compete and crowd out rare species. A DNR pamphlet on calcareous fens calls them 'Amazing, Rare, Irreplaceable.' The DNR required Enbridge to pay the state $250,000 for ongoing monitoring, to put $2,750,000 in escrow if needed for restoration work, and to submit a Calcarious Fen Management Plan.


LaSalle Valley Breach, Aug. 2, 2021

A group of men working on a construction site

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Workers attempt to plug the aquifer breach in LaSalle Valley.

Image: Waadookawadd Amikwag video screen grab.


Site: LaSalle Creek is in the Mississippi Headwaters complex just a few miles from Itasca State Park. It's a small trout stream which meanders through a forested valley in the 1855 Treaty Territory.


Cause: From the beginning, the DNR knew the LaSalle Valley crossing would be problematic and require additional information, according to the DNR permit. The DNR consulted with Enbridge and proposed moving Line 3's LaSalle Creek crossing to a straighter section of the creek. In an April, 2020 meeting with Enbridge, the DNR said it needed more information about 'potential artesian conditions and water management in the area.' Enbridge did additional studies. The DNR's point person on Line 3 permits would later say that Enbridge had reported its planned trench depth to the department, but not the planned sheet piling depth. Line 3 workers drove sheet pilings 28-30 feet deep along the LaSalle Creek hillside where the artesian aquifer's confining layer was only 12 to 18 feet. It ruptured the aquifer's cap. The DNR's point person on Line 3 permits said the breach resulted from 'miscommunication.' Given the lengthy conversations about the LaSalle crossing, and Enbridge's deep pockets and skilled professionals, miscommunication on something this significant seems highly unlikely. 


Groundwater released: 9.8 million gallons of groundwater, according to Enbridge.


Slap-Dash Effort: Workers inserted about 135, 23-foot long steel pipes throughout this valley and injected over 51,000 gallons of grout. In this delicate system of wetlands, it created a permanent, underground, reinforced concrete wall, over 20-feet high in places, and 2.5 football fields in length.


Other things to know:


The breach might not be fixed yet: An Aug. 4, 2022 Star Tribune article cited Enbridge saying the LaSalle breach was grouted and fixed as of November 2021. An Oct. 17, 2022 DNR and MPCA media release announcing enforcement actions against Enbridge noted that the LaSalle breach still was releasing 20 gallons of groundwater per minute. (That's 1,800 gallons/day or 657,000 gallons/year, and again, a likely underestimate.)


Educational video available online: Waadookawaad Amikwag released an eight-minute video titled: 'How Enbridge Breached the LaSalle Aquifer.'


Fond du Lac Breach, Sept. 10, 2021

A construction site with a muddy road

Description automatically generated
Aquifer breach next to the Fond du Lac Reservation.

Image: Enbridge report to the DNR


Site: The breach occurred in St. Louis County, south of US Highway 2 and east of Minnesota Highway 73 in 1854 Treaty Territory. It was approximately 400 feet west of the Fond du Lac Band's Reservation. This stretch of Line 3's route crosses a swamp-shrub carr wetland, which St. Louis County describes as occurring in 'organic soils (peat/muck) as well as on the mineral soils of a floodplain. These wetlands are waterlogged much of the growing season and often covered with as much as six inches of water.'


Cause: In late January, 2021 workers drove sheet pilings 27 feet into the ground. The aquifer's confining layer was approximately 30 to 39 feet deep. The groundwater release didn't start until Sept. 10, 2021, when crews used vibration hammers to loosen and remove the sheet pilings. Artesian aquifer's confining layers are often something relatively strong, such as clay. This location had a particularly weak confining layer, made of 'native silts and fine sands,' according to Enbridge. The company hypothesizes that the vibrating hammers used to remove sheet pilings 'liquefied' the silt-and-sand aquifer cap below the pilings, leading to the breach.


Groundwater released: 263 million gallons, according to Enbridge.


Slap-Dash Effort: Enbridge pumped 150,000 gallons of grout underground.

Walker Brook, Aug. 17, 2021

Walker Brook Valley, with erosion controls, March, 2023 shortly after Enbridge's latest attempt at repair.


Site: Walker Brook is near Bagley in Clearwater County, and is in 1855 Treaty Territory. The valley is full of complicated layers of glacial sediments and interconnected wetland systems.


Cause: The pipeline ran straight down a fairly steep hill in an area with a high water table. It appears that the water in hillside began flowing downhill along the path of least resistance, the buried pipeline and the trench. It created erosion next to the pipeline, raising concerns about its stability.


Groundwater released: Unknown.


Slap-Dash Effort: Enbridge made two to three efforts to address the breach. In the most recent effort, workers stripped the top two-and-a-half feet of topsoil along one hillside, in an area 20-feet wide and 280-feet long. They replaced it with a foot of sand, a foot of gravel, and a half foot of topsoil. The goal was to move drainage away from the pipeline. The sand and gravel are a sterile environment. Enbridge has completely changed this once pristine forested peat land.


A aerial view of a train in the snow

Description automatically generated
Drone view of workers removing 2.5 feet of topsoil at Walker Brook, and replacing

it with sand, gravel, and a little topsoil.


Other things to know:


Video available: Waadookawaad Amikwag released this 5-minute video discussing Walker Brook's construction damage.

Missing information: State agencies have not reported on this location to the public, explained the type of hydrologic damage that occurred, or their analysis of its cause.


Moose Lake breach, date unknown

A water well in a field

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Line 3 construction near Moose Lake breached an aquifer.

 Photo: Waadookawaad Amikwag, July, 2023.


Site: Construction occurred in a peat land area south of Moose Lake, a wild rice lake in Aitkin County in 1855 Treaty Territory. Peat lands are composed entirely of organic matter and saturated with water


Cause: Workers laid the pipeline during the winter when the ground was frozen. Even then, workers used sheet pilings 'due to the unstable nature of the floating mat peat in this area,' Enbridge wrote in an Oct. 3 memo to the DNR and the MPCA. The artesian aquifer confining layer here is 16- to 20-feet deep. Workers drove sheet pilings 28 feet deep and punctured it, according to an April 21 memo from Enbridge to the DNR and the MPCA.


Groundwater released: Currently no estimates.


Slap-Dash Effort: Nothing yet.



How many drops in a tidal wave?


By Chris Vaughn,


A sunset over a body of water

Description automatically generated

A new study
 shows that a full third of mine waste is stored near or within protected ecosystems, a trend expected to increase "due to growing demand for energy transition metals and declining ore grades." At the juncture of Lake Superior and Porcupine Mountains State Park, Copperwood is the perfect example of a terrible location, but it will not be the last: if there is not significant pushback, and soon, the shadow of mine waste will only keep spreading.


Our fights in this region are not unique. In recent weeks many thousands have taken to the streets of Panama in protest of a Canadian company's copper mine' see any parallels? Environmentalists, indigenous groups, and labor unions joined their voices so powerfully that the government passed a moratorium on all new metal mining, and on November 28th the Supreme Court ruled the contract of the mine itself to be unconstitutional. Common folks resorting to direct action, striking fear in the hearts of politicians' such things happen down where the hot sauce flows freely, but up here in Gringolandia? Can you imagine us marching in such numbers that even the Capitol shakes, all for the sake of a mine?


I can.


Because Imagination is how it must begin. The other side knows this: as we speak, they're imagining "a new mining district." They're imagining the expansion of power grids, the resuscitation of railroads, and tailings dams hundreds of feet high; they're imagining fields of wind turbines where eagles fear to fly, and armadas of electric cars with AI so powerful you don't even have to think about where the batteries come from; but more than anything, they're imagining We the People, sitting on our asses, accepting every new technology and development project to come along.


But the People are imagining too, and our petition is proof. Over 8,500 signatures show we still believe the world is capable of doing the right thing: protecting freshwater, protecting wilderness, protecting the right of humans to enjoy a moment of peace in Nature. 


We are doing what we can to save this pristine area, and we encourage you to visit our Take Action! page for ways to help. But putting out the fires of every new mining project will be extremely draining on small campaigns. Perhaps we need to imagine bigger.  


The only way to counter their "new mining district" is with a new movement of mass resistance. Highland Copper wants to drill beneath the Presque Isle River and extract minerals from Park land well, if they don't respect borders, then why should we?  Imagine our separate fights in the Lake Superior region and beyond synergizing beneath a common banner, to be legislated at the State or even Federal level: no sulfide mining in water-rich environments, period.


Water makes up 99% of the molecules in our bodies. Water is what unites Democrat and Republican, Michigander and Minnesotan, native and non-native. Water is Life, yes; but if not respected, it can be something more.


Shh, listen... Do you hear the tidal wave? 




Issue 1, November 9, 2023, Welcome to a New Coalition

By Evan Zimmermann


I’m honored to present this series of articles submitted by passionate defenders of the Great Lakes. UPE.News is the beginning of a collaborative effort between UPEC and Citizens for a Safe and Clean Lake Superior (CSCLS). Each month we’ll reach out to our allies and partners across the UP and the surrounding area to highlight the many efforts underway to keep the environment and culture alive.


We start with a focus on the conflicts that have arisen between mineral extraction and the preservation of wilderness. We believe that it’s possible to move toward the future while respecting the integrity of the ecosystem and all the living beings within it, and we want you to know how this can be done and what challenges stand in our way.


There are rarely easy answers to complex problems, but when it comes to environmental policy, there’s one obvious solution. It doesn’t require any new laws or extra resources. If only our regulators would properly consult with tribal governments. Federal and state regulators need to seek their approval before greenlighting any project with a potential impact on their treaty rights to the land. These treaties are the constitutional “supreme law of the land,” and when we ignore this law, we all lose.


On Indigenous People’s Day, I attended a conference call inconveniently placed at 10AM on a Wednesday where the Michigan DNR invited public comments on giving Talon Metals of Minnesota extraordinary rights to Michigan minerals. The entire public was against it. No tribal governments were consulted by the DNR. Anyone who wanted to speak up for indigenous stakeholders had to find out on their own about a Microsoft Teams call in the middle of a workday and get in line with everyone else. This would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.


I’m pleased to launch this newsletter with a live event with representatives from Honor the Earth, the Tamarack Water Alliance, and other engaged citizens who know more about Talon Metals than the Michigan DNR. You can find us live on 6PM Eastern on November 9th and archived after the event at


Thank you so much to Jane Fitkin of CSCLS and all of our eloquent and thoughtful contributors. You give us all hope for a sustainable future.






Copperwood and the Battle for the Green Soul by Chris Vaughn


What’s a Wilderness by Steve Garske


Mining in the Porcupines State Park by Nancy Stencil


The watershed of the Boundary Waters remains threatened by toxic sulfide-ore copper mining. by Libby London


Human Health Effects of Sulfide Mining by Tamarack Water Alliance


“They tell us to ‘shut up,’ but we aren’t going anywhere.” by Honor the Earth




Copperwood and the Battle for the Green Soul

by Chris Vaughn


Lake Superior is 10% of the world's surface freshwater; all sulfide mines contaminate water; Copperwood would be the closest such mine to Lake Superior in history. 




Copperwood is also less than a thirty second drive from both the North Country Trail and Porcupine Mountains State Park, which contains the largest tract of mixed old growth in the Midwest and was ranked last year as "the most beautiful State Park in the country." Ecological offenses aside, the Mine would disrupt this thriving outdoor recreation area with nonstop industrial traffic, subterranean blasts, and air, water, light, and sound pollution.


"Don't worry! It's just talk!"


What hasn't happened yet won't happen ever— a philosophy that holds... until it doesn't. It's true Flopperwood has passed from one failed company to the next without a single copper penny to show for it, but this summer's developments should raise alarm in all our hearts:


1.     On July 24th, Highland Copper's market capitalization quadrupled after receiving $30 million from Kinterra (another Canadian company);

2.     On July 31st, the Department of Energy listed copper as a "critical material" for the first time ever;

3.     Most importantly, forest has been clearcut, wetlands destroyed, and streams forever altered. Future be damned, the project is already inflicting real devastation upon countless sentient organisms.


Apart from the final engineering on their toxic waste facility, Highland has all the permits to proceed. Indeed, they are but a few Canadian investors, a bank loan, and a generous State of Michigan grant away from making this nightmare actually happen. And thanks to environmentalists, such a grant is now more likely than ever... 


"On November 3rd, lawmakers passed the bill mandating that Michigan receive 100% of its energy from renewable sources like nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower by 2040." (MLive). 


Here we must address two sleights-of-hand, as common as they are dangerous:


First, "renewable" may describe sunlight, water, and wind, but photovoltaics, dams, and turbines do not spawn out of the aether — to the contrary, their production demands a multitude of minerals, chief among them: copper. So let's get an inconvenient truth out of the way: the attempted scaling of "green" technologies will require mining the daylights out of Planet Earth.


Second, both the media and the bill itself have conflated energy with electricity. Electricity — what's really being talked about — is a mere 20% of overall energy use; the remaining 80% will continue to be produced by fossil fuels. 


Is this really enough to turn the tide? In 2014, top Google engineers renounced their R&D project and declared that all the alternative energy in the world won't make a dent in climate change. Consider that the pinnacle of current offerings, the lithium-ion battery, has an energy density of 1 megajoule per kilogram. Nice! But diesel is 46 times that amount. No amount of hopeful wordsmithing will lead to alt-energy replacing fossil fuels. This is in keeping with history: new energy sources and improvements in efficiency lead not to reduction, but to ever-increasing production (see: Jevon's Paradox). 


Thus, well-intentioned environmentalists have become pro-bono lobbyists for massive development projects and are even condoning the expansion of mining — among the most destructive industries on the planetWe must all ask: if extraction, machines, and disregard for the Earth got us into this mess, how is more of the same supposed to get us out?


The words we choose are important. In times of fear, words lobotomize us; in times of courage, we wield the weapons ourselves. Sure, mining and metal processing are responsible for 26% of global carbon emissions— but arguing solely in these terms is like opposing slave ships for running on coal. Do we protect wetlands, forests, and soil because they are carbon sinks? Or do we protect them because they are teeming with Life? The title "green" must either be abandoned for referring to nothing but the emissions of an end product regardless of all that comes before and after, or it must be reclaimed to encompass the entirety of our relationship to the Biosphere.


Let us not shy from difficult, nuanced conversations; they will be made easier by remembering what we stand for. Freshwater seas, old growth forest, and the right of humans to enjoy a moment of peace in Nature — if we don't draw a line around these things, it means we won't draw a line anywhere. In this way, Copperwood is the ultimate litmus test: is Civilization nothing but a suicide crusade for the God of Progress, doomed to wrench up every last ounce of mineral no matter the cost? Or will we find our reflections in Gitchi-Gami?


Like mycelia, our strength is in Connection. Sometimes our hyphae will fuse; other times, division is necessary in order to branch out. But if we continue our efforts, at once separate and united, very soon, a potent mushroom will sprout.


What’s a Wilderness?

by Steve Garske


The Trap Hills region of the Ottawa National Forest (ONF) is a special place. With its towering forests, crystal clear streams, beaver ponds and meadows, high rock outcrops, and awesome views, the Trap Hills have become a destination for hikers and sightseers from the upper Midwest and beyond. Hikers climbing the Hacking Trail from the end of Forest Road 326 to the top of the Trap Hills escarpment (the highest sheer cliff in Michigan), are quickly rewarded with a panorama of nearly unbroken forest, stretching from Lake Gogebic almost to Lake Superior. 


A view of a forest from a high point

The Trap Hills are also biologically rich and unique. The area supports mature and old-growth northern hardwood and hardwood–conifer forests, ecological communities that are increasingly rare. It is home to an array of North woods wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bear, fisher, marten, bobcats, timber wolves, beaver, porcupine, red squirrels, and various species of mice, voles and shrews. It provides a home for nesting birds that need interior forest habitat. It also supports a population of state-threatened wood turtles, and at least 6 species of state-listed, rare and endangered plants.


The fact that this place is special is reflected in its regional following of hikers and attempts through the years to get the area protected as wilderness. While the first two organized efforts were led by local individuals and groups, the latest push for wilderness designation for the Trap Hills and three other areas of the Ottawa is being led by the Environmental Law and Policy Center of Chicago. Their Keep the UP Wild website has lots more information on this effort.


So why has the ONF resisted any and all attempts to even recommend the Trap Hills as a wilderness study area? It undoubtedly has to do with the Forest Service’s long-held philosophy that essentially all National Forest lands should be open to “multiple use”, including (and perhaps especially) timber harvest. Due in large part to public pressure to protect the Trap Hills core area during the development of the 2006 Forest Plan, the Ottawa designated this area, Norwich Bluff, and several other areas within the forest as “Special Interest Areas”. This designation affords these areas with some protection, but that protection could quickly disappear with an amendment to the Forest Plan or with the next Forest Plan.


Meanwhile, the ONF recently proposed a massive timber sale for part of the Trap Hills region. The proposed Victoria Vegetation Management Project would extend from the eastern edge of the Trap Hills core area, east to Victoria Reservoir and north to the northern boundary of the Ottawa. To the south it would border the West Branch of the Ontonagon River, a federally-designated National Recreational River. It would surround Norwich Bluff Special Interest Area.


The ONF’s reasoning for not recommending the Trap Hills for wilderness consideration is included in Appendix C of the Environmental Impact Statement for their 2006 Forest Plan. In this document the ONF cites criteria from the Forest Service Handbook in deciding whether these areas qualify as wilderness. These criteria are frequently at odds with the Wilderness Act of 1964.


Reasons given for claiming that the Trap Hills region was “unsuitable” for wilderness designation was that one could hear traffic from Hwy M-64, an assertion that is demonstrably false. But even if this claim were true, it shouldn’t have precluded wilderness designation for the Trap Hills. That’s because the Wilderness Act of 1964 only pertains to the land being designated as wilderness, not the land outside the wilderness boundary. There are many examples of wilderness areas with boundaries that border road corridors (even 4-lane highways). Whether or not it might be possible to hear road traffic within these areas is therefore irrelevant to their eligibility for federal wilderness designation.


Another reason given by the ONF for not considering at least the Trap Hills as wilderness was that it supposedly had active roads. This is also false. The only so-called “roads” that have ever existed in the Trap Hills core area were old horse trails used to partly log the area well over 100 years ago. Since then, these trails have been reclaimed by the surrounding forest and have all but vanished. Even if you can find remnants of them, they are impassable to any sort of vehicle, including ATVs and mountain bikes. Nonetheless the ONF has maintained these old horse trails in their road inventory as active roads.

A high angle view of a forest

Another ill-informed reason some have for opposing wilderness designation is that existing access will be lost. However, most of these areas are already managed by the ONF as “semi-primitive non-motorized recreation” environments. Wilderness legislation can be written so that existing roads and the popular Pioneer motorized recreational trail are excluded from the wilderness area and remain open as they are now.


Under “DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS”, the Wilderness Act of 1964 (with amendments) describes wilderness as:


(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.


The Trap Hills /Norwich Bluff region and the other three areas being proposed for wilderness designation easily fit all these criteria. Despite their remoteness and unique features, they are vulnerable to future resource exploitation. They need to be protected for the long-term as federal wilderness.




Mining in the Porcupines State Park

by Nancy Stencil


A sign with a red cross

Description automatically generated Sometimes all it takes is someone sharing a photo that draws attention. “They’re planning a mine here—not a joke.” This photo is worth a thousand words and received one hundred shares on Facebook in a very short amount of time. This photo woke sleeping giants that walk among us for the good. This mining project is slated for this year.


Anyone who has spent time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has seen the bountiful beauty, the waterfalls, Lake Superior, and the endless forests. The Porcupine Mountains State Park, especially the Presque Isle scenic area, all resting on the shores of Lake Superior, is absolutely priceless. Why would anyone want to destroy this?


Highland Copper aims to mine under State Park land, under the Presque Isle River, and possibly even under Lake Superior. This would be in the west end of the Porkies. Original plans showed the water to be drawn from Lake Superior for industrial uses. Recently, plans changed to re-routing streams and altering wetlands. I ask you which is worse? They are destroying precious habitat.  Lake Superior holds one-fourth of the world’s fresh water… Adding to all this, there is also interest in redeveloping the White Pine Mine, on the east side of the Porkies, and using this for milling the ore and storing hazardous mine waste; forever. White Pine was initially closed around 1995, and there have been many environmental contamination concerns such as tailing basins and brownfields. This is ecocide and no one is taking ownership of this burden, except maybe you and I, the taxpayer. This project will literally “bookend” the Porkies. Picture that, a mine on each end of the Porkies. Please visit the website


We know there has never been a sulfide mine that does not pollute. Why are our law makers allowing our waters to be polluted with heavy metals? This is a Canadian based copper company coming in to intentionally, and deliberately destroy our land. Copper is not a critical mineral, and it can be much more easily recycled but this seems to fall on deaf ears due to greed; greedy people that tell us there is no money in recycling. The Department of Energy has placed copper on THEIR critical mineral list, it is NOT on the U. S. Interior’s critical list. This will feed into the lies and make it a political hot potato that will get lost in the rhetoric. Mining companies love this. Here is the full document.


Again, we need to speak up, and speak up now and loudly. The clear cutting for this project has already begun. Old growth forests are being destroyed.  It's time to write to the Army Corp of Engineers. Here's the regulations admin email: or verbally: 906.288.2833

or snail mail: 115 Lakeshore Blvd. #C, Marquette, Michigan 49855, Attn: Regulations Admin



The watershed of the Boundary Waters remains threatened

by toxic sulfide-ore copper mining.

by Libby London


Over the past ten years, the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters built a movement that brought Minnesota's sulfide-ore copper mining threat, considered the most toxic industry by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), into the national spotlight.

This year, they achieved the most significant conservation measure to be implemented for the Boundary Waters in 45 years: a 20-year mining ban on federal lands within the watershed of the Boundary Waters.

Unfortunately, this doesn't protect the entire watershed from foreign mining interests - it only covers federal lands. State land is at imminent risk. Franconia Minerals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Twin Metals Minnesota, was just granted approval for exploratory drilling near Birch Lake to promote a mine UNDER Birch Lake - a beloved lake that flows into the Wilderness. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) the lead organization of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, urged the DNR not to approve this plan. Still, nevertheless, it was approved by the MN DNR on October 30, 2023.

This proposal means that by the next paddling season, noises of drilling, blasting, machinery, heavy traffic, and more will drown out the natural sounds of our Northwoods - eviscerating the quiet solitude that makes the Boundary Waters America's most visited Wilderness area.


This dangerous drilling plan is a flashing reminder to all Minnesota state legislators that permanent protection of the Boundary Waters and its watershed from sulfide-ore copper mining must include passage of the Boundary Waters Permanent Protection Bill (S.F. 167/H.F. 329). 

Help us push back. We need to advocate for permanent legislative protections and prepare for our crucial legal battle next year - you can help us move these measures forward by getting involved at




Human Health Effects of Sulfide Mining

by Tamarack Water Alliance


A sunset over a lake

Description automatically generatedDr. Jennifer Pearson and Dr. Emily Onello and other colleagues summarize their priority for addressing the proposed sulfide-ore copper nickel (SOCN) mining project in Tamarack with the statement, “There is no hard and fast science that has yet proven cause/effect to human health, but rather a ground-swell of concern by healthcare professionals given the harmful effects to human health of the heavy metals/sulfates that will forever leach from the mining sites. Part of the ask has been that this science/assessment be baked into any EA or EIS moving forward.”

With the context of SOCN mining being considered in water-rich Minnesota, and given pollution resulting from SOCN mining elsewhere, Pearson and colleagues have written about the need for careful scrutiny in examining the associated risks.

“Recent federal decisions to reinstate mineral leases and abort the environmental assessment process have placed our unique and irreplaceable region at substantial risk. The overall health and wellness of this region will very likely be negatively affected by SOCN mining, and economic costs will predictably outweigh benefits. In addition, negative impacts on water, fish and wild rice will likely degrade nutritional and tribal resources resulting in violation of usufructuary rights of tribal communities,” Pearson says.

Dr. Pearson and her colleague Dr. Emily Onello will speak om Thursday, October 5, 2023 about the changing legislative and permitting landscape around permits and leases for hard-rock mining, in particular the effects the changes will have with regard to human, wildlife and environmental health in Minnesota. They will also explain how Minnesota’s health care providers are mobilizing to inform the public about the potential risks of mining to Minnesotans.

In their article Sulfide-ore mining and human health in Minnesota, Pearson and Onello and colleagues point out the, “Inextricable connection between ecosystem health, animal health and human health . . . and the toxic track record of sulfide-ore mining elsewhere,” saying that, “concern for human health must be part of the public dialogue.”
In the same article, Dr. Pearson cites the World Health Organization as listing 10 environmental toxins that are of the greatest concern to human health, and states that SOCN mining like that being proposed for Aitkin County has the potential to release six of these including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, asbestos and particulate air pollution. Sulfide-ore mining also releases sulfates that promote methylation of elemental mercury already present in wetlands and sediments.
Copper-nickel ore frequently contains iron sulfide minerals such as pyrite (FeS2), one of the world’s most common sulfide minerals. The atmospheric oxidation of pyrite ultimately results in the release of sulfuric acid.  Under certain conditions, ferric iron (Fe3+) remains soluble in acidic outflows and forms the reddish-orange to yellow ferric hydroxide (Fe(OH)3), a precipitate often recognized as the hallmark of waters containing acid mine drainage. 
A key difference between the majority of the copper sulfide mines currently operating in the United States and those proposed for Minnesota is that most are located in the Southwest, a region that receives little rain and snow. Those environments minimize communication between surface and groundwater. In wetter climates like Minnesota’s, surface and shallow groundwater are more vulnerable to the negative effects of sulfide mining. More detail on this issue can be found in the article, Sulfide Mining and Human Health in Minnesota, co-authored by Dr.Pearson and Dr. Emily Onello and other colleagues.
We look forward to having you join us for this interesting presentation.  Links to three papers providing more in depth treatment of the issues are listed here:

Resources Consulted


“They tell us to ‘shut up', but we aren’t going anywhere.”

by Honor the Earth


A green economy can only be built with respect for water and treaty rights.

Recently, an article by the Washington Post asked the question, Is sustainable mining possible?  Even in the title of that piece – which asserts that “The EV Revolution depends on it”  – it’s clear that the measure of sustainability automakers and mining industry advocates are aiming for is deeply flawed. In this era of climate chaos and global instability, the measure of whether or not we can achieve sustainability of our climate or economy should not be a question of sustaining the highest level of corporate extraction and profiteering, but whether or not our most vulnerable communities will survive and thrive into the future.


Native communities on the front lines of climate change and extractive industry have seen this before with the oil and gas industry. They’ve long borne the brunt of destructive and careless industrial development. A green economy cannot be built on the continued destruction of lands and waters, or by silencing Native opposition. The tiny town of Tamarack in Aitkin County has become one focal point for these conversations about the future, because Rio Tinto and their exploration partner Talon Metals are banking on receiving permits to mine here. 


A close-up of several broken pipesA massive deposit of nickel and copper, bound-up in sulfide ore, sits beneath a wetland on the outskirts of town – a place that is connected to many other places by water – including numerous lakes and rivers that flow into the Mississippi River. This is not just a rural town “in the middle of nowhere” as some people imply. This is Anishinaabe territory, and home to some of the most important wild rice lakes in the world. Native people retain the rights to hunt, fish and gather from these lands, which are also a source of life and livelihood for many other families and communities. A new mining boom would compromise Indigenous rights and livelihoods, because it would put that very land and the lives that depend upon it at risk for generations. 


The devastating impacts of mining are not only a concern for Indigenous people, although these frontline communities are most at risk, and are preparing to shape a truly sustainable future. Manoomin, or sacred wild rice, is an indicator of the overall health of waters, lands and our economies. Protecting wild rice and clean water is a climate change solution. Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag-ininiwag, or the Sandy Lake Band of Chippewa, are featured in this article because they are at risk from Rio Tinto and Talon’s development of sulfide ore mines here.


“This area is just too precious to leave to chance. [Just as] the wind travels, toxic air will travel. It will come into the lakes. It will devastate the fish. It will devastate the wild rice. It will.”



Sandy Lake is asking other Native communities and non-native allies to join them in calling out Rio Tinto’s land grab, and Talon’s greenwashing – re-asserting that these are places worth protecting. “This area is just too precious to leave to chance,” said Jean Skinaway-Lawrence, chairwoman of the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa. Native and non-native people in and around the mine are becoming more concerned about the risks of sulfide mining in this water rich region. 


Click here to read more about the risks of the Rio Tinto / Talon mine and about some of the Indigenous-led solutions to climate change being developed here.