Thursday, July 19, 2018

Might International Mining Sustainability Standards help protect our Boundary Waters?

You may have noticed that Russia and Russians have been much in the news recently. Every mention reminds us of President Reagan's citation, when dealing with nuclear disarmament, of the Russian proverb "Trust, but verify!" We believe following that old proverb could be very helpful in protecting one of Minnesota's most treasured resources, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the onslaught of copper mining. Here's our logic, yet to be verified.
  • Twin Metals Minnesota is a wholly owned subsidiary of Antofagasta plc of Santiago, Chile, one of the top 10 copper producers in the world. Twin Metals Minnesota maintains offices in Ely and St. Paul, Minnesota. (source: <>, 7/19/18, ~12:15 pm)
  • Antofagasta Minerals is a member of the International Council on Mining & Metals [ICMM]. They joined in 2014.
  • ICMM member companies commit to a set of 10 principles, eight supporting position statements and transparent and accountable reporting practices.
  • ICMM principles of particular relevance to mining and protected areas are:
  •     Principle 6: Pursue continual improvement in environmental performance issues, such as water stewardship, energy use and climate change.
  •     Principle 7: Contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and integrated approaches to land-use planning.
  • Further clarifications of those commitments include
  • Not explore or mine in World Heritage properties. All possible steps will be taken to ensure that existing operations in World Heritage properties as well as existing and future operations adjacent to World Heritage properties are not incompatible with the outstanding universal value for which these properties are listed and do not put the integrity of these properties at risk. 
  • Ib Wilderness Area: Category Ib protected areas are usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition. more...
  • II National Park: Category II protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities. more...
would mining activities enhance this?
would mining activities enhance this?
Photo by J. Harrington

We believe that the Boundary Waters and much of the surrounding areas largely qualify as category Ib and/or II. We've seen no indication that the question of compliance with ICMM principles by Twin Metals has been put to ICMM, IUCN and/or Angofasta. Is the pursuit of Twin Metals exploration and/or the development of the contemplated mine consistent with or in violation of ICMM principles? If the latter, is it not therefore qualified as a sustainable source of copper for the future.

We posted about this theme a couple of years ago, before the Twin Metals project was declared off limits. Now folks are trying to bring it back "on limits" so the questions again seem relevant and ripe for verification. Answers could go a very long way toward demonstrating whether ICMM principles and standards are real, or just a long-winded version of greenwash. They might also provide Minnesota with improved tools for managing mining and its impacts in the state.


Linda Hogan

This is the word that is always bleeding.
You didn’t think this
until your country changes and when it thunders
you search your own body
for a missing hand or leg.
In one country, there are no bodies shown,
lies are told
and the keep hidden the weeping children on dusty streets.

But I do remember once
a woman and a child in beautiful blue clothing
walking over a dune, spreading a green cloth,
drinking nectar with mint and laughing
beneath a sky of clouds from the river
near the true garden of Eden.
Now another country is breaking
this holy vessel
where stone has old stories
and the fire creates clarity in the eyes of a child
who will turn it to hate one day.

We are so used to it now,
this country where we do not love enough,
that country where they do not love enough,
and that.

We do not need a god by any name
nor do we need to fall to our knees or cover ourselves,
enter a church or a river,
only do we need to remember what we do
to one another, it is so fierce
what any of our fathers may do to a child
what any of our brothers or sisters do to nonbelievers,
how we try to discover who is guilty
by becoming guilty,
because history has continued
to open the veins of the world
more and more
always in its search
for something gold.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Update on Minnesota's watersheds and local #phenology

This morning we followed up on something the Better Half mentioned yesterday regarding our post. She informed us that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a curriculum on watersheds. It took more time than we think it should have (but that time was not spent reading political news 😂) to finally find what we think she was referencing. It's the Minnesota Project Wet (Water Education for Teachers) program, which has produced a Water Primer and Project Wet companion book titled Water Ways, available as a free downloadable PDF. We skimmed through the contents and they look pretty good. One thing we've noticed with some dismay is that there doesn't appear to be any mention of either the Trout Unlimited Trout in the Classroom program nor the international River of Words art and poetry contest for children 5 - 19. We believe there's a fantastic opportunity for Minnesota to formulate a highly productive partnership among these three programs and use that to help create a better basis for a real Minnesota water ethic.

As we were searching the internets for the watershed curriculum, we decided that one of the problems we all are faced with is a really poor signal to noise ratio when it comes to watersheds. There's lots and lots of information, plus even more data, with too little structure or very much in the way of really useful information architecture. Here's an example on the United States Geological Survey website Science in Your Watershed. Water Ways does a much better job of teaching us what we need to know about our watersheds, but it took a lot of searching to find it.

[While we were at it, we also found the "missing watershed" we posted about yesterday. Perhaps tomorrow we'll share those findings.]

On the local phenology front, here's the update:
  • Purple love grass is maturing. Our fields are taking on a pinkish tinge.

  • mature purple love grass
    mature purple love grass
    Photo by J. Harrington

  • Yesterday we confirmed the simultaneous arrival at the nectar feeder of three female hummingbirds. One may have been an immature? Two seemed friendly and the third kept trying to chase everyone away from the feeder.

  • tussock moth larvae on milkweed
    tussock moth larvae on milkweed
    Photo by J. Harrington

  • Today we confirmed the tentative tussock moth identification of a few days ago. We noticed more hatchlings and a later stage instar on a different milkweed plant.

A Walk to Carter’s Lake

Look, above the creek, hummingbirds in the trumpet vine.
Not too close, wait. See the green blurs
stitching the leaves?

Here at the edge of the millennium
I don’t imagine
you’d call them anything as archaic as angels.

But aren’t they agents of a sort, and secret,
dissolving and solidifying,
spying from their constantly shifting perches of air,
always nervous
of us, risking only a stab
in a bell of petals?

Don’t look so stunned, lay your pack
in the needles and catch a breath. I know,
you thought you knew me,
and now to hear me talk this way ...

I’m glad I’ve stopped pretending
to love people
and the cities where people can’t love themselves.
This is what the quiet accomplishes,
and the water trusting
the shadows to eventually peel back to the trees.

Small wonder the angels are said to despise us.
Still, without them
how do we account for our meanness?

Look at that, what else can promenade
in the air? And how easily
they’re alarmed,
revving off into the mist.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.