Local Perspective: I love the BWCAW, but regulated mining is needed to address climate change – Duluth News Tribune


When I think of mining on the edge of the country’s most popular wilderness, the hair on the back of my neck stands like a protective mother moose guarding her calf. My teeth bare like the fangs of a cornered wolf.

Unfortunately, these are not normal times. Climate change is happening at a rate that many of us cannot comprehend. In fact, scientists tell us that change is at least 10 times faster than any other period in history. If you have studied the risks of unchallenged climate change, you understand that the fossil fuel route we are following leads to disaster. You know that we have to switch completely, within 20 years, to energy sources that do not release greenhouse gases into the air. We must leave the primitive era of fossil fuels dead and buried.

The recent 3,600-page scientific assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is summarized in this single paragraph of the report: “The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in anticipated concerted global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to ensure a livable and sustainable future for all.

I have been diligently studying climate science for over eight years and have written over 200 articles on climate change. The IPCC statement is as straightforward as possible for scientists. In short, they say: “Change or die”.

If you switch to survival-oriented solutions, the solutions include wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles and a new modern grid. We may even have to consider nuclear. All of these require copper, nickel, and lithium in massive amounts that will need to be found, mined, and processed.

Do we need copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota? Unless massive deposits are discovered elsewhere, we do. Hurry up. Humanity needs to harness the minerals that support the clean energy revolution.

This dilemma weighs heavily. Do we block a mine next to a beloved wilderness and refuse to participate in solving the climate threat? Or do we allow the mine and risk destroying the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness? The fate of our beloved BWCAW rests on the horns of a dilemma. But is this a solvable dilemma?

Can a mining company be trusted to mine responsibly? As a career helicopter pilot, I’ve seen too many post-mining and drilling operations to know that unregulated good mining doesn’t exist. Societies are not created with a conscience. Their motivation is profit. Any mining operation must be strictly regulated. There can be no exceptions.

To operate successfully and safely, we need competent and incorruptible oversight involving local members of the environmental community.

The blueprint for success lies in advance planning and written regulations to cover day-to-day operations and worst-case scenarios. Well-funded independent watchdogs should assess the process before, during and after mining to ensure that safeguards are implemented. This process must be transparent, with public participation and public authority to intervene.

As much as I hate the idea of ​​a mine anywhere near the BWCAW, we must weigh the immediate need to meet, stop and defeat climate change.

Our mantra should be: “Show us you can do it right or stay away”. I challenge you to be fiercely determined to protect the BWCAW from any threat while promoting a strictly regulated mine.

We can do both if we are strong, determined and united. Nothing less than the fate of future generations rests with us.

Greyson Morrow of Wakefield, Michigan, is retired from the Minnesota National Guard and is a climate activist and member of the Citizens Climate Lobby. Read more of his writings on his blog at



Greyson Morrow


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