Minnesota Land and Manoomin Protection Project
The beginnings of the Mississippi River (Misi-ziibi, Gichi-ziibi) run through both Aitkin and Itasca counties in northern Minnesota. These counties are rich with wild rice, wetlands, lakes, forests, and healthy habitat for wildlife. Aitkin and Itasca counties are also historically poor counties. The population is sparse and declining and some communities are concerned about their economies and livelihood. The answer that some have to that is extraction and industry. Currently, there are two proposed projects that threaten the land and the precious manoomin (wild rice) beds, the sacred food of the Anishinaabeg, the people whose land these counties occupy. These projects will affect five tribes in northern Minnesota (Leech Lake, Red Lake, Boise Fort, White Earth, and Mille Lacs).
One of the projects, Huber’s Frontier Project, is from a North Carolina company called Huber Engineered Woods LLC. They are proposing a 750,000 square foot facility in Cohasset, MN. This facility will require trees from within a 70 to 100-mile radius- 400,000 cords of harvested wood annually to mix toxic materials with to create their product, oriented strand board (OSB) or particle board. Huber has not been transparent about where the lumber for the project will be harvested. The production of OSB requires petrochemicals and glues that create hazardous conditions for workers as well as the environment.
The other project is the Talon-Rio Tinto Mine (Talon Mine) that is in the exploration phase in Tamarack, MN. The project would cover nearly 32 square miles of mostly wetlands. This type of underground copper mining is dangerous for the waters, land, and air. Sulfide ores that would be exposed in this project contain metals that can mobilize in the environment. As said by Tamarack Water Alliance:
“This type of pollution is commonly referred to as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and has the potential to devastate entire ecosystems. The close proximity of sulfide mines to valued water bodies such as lakes and rivers of the Mississippi watershed intensifies the magnitude of this issue. All of the water bodies in the Tamarack area are linked by multiple aquifers.”
We know we have to rely on each other to keep our communities and environments safe. And so, in response to the two proposed extraction projects, we must work together to gather data that shows the current environmental information to understand why we must stop these projects before they break ground.
A: Regularly collect species data- especially presence of manoomin (wild rice) to grow information on the current state of health of the environment at risk from existing and proposed industries.
B: Regularly share project updates including monitoring methods, tools, challenges, data and questions on Public Lab and in other project identified spaces as appropriate.
C: Work towards advocacy in the protection of the land and resources in Aitkin and Itsaca counties at risk from the proposed Talon Mine (copper mine) and proposed Huber Mill (OSB board factory) by using our data in support of halting the permitting process for these two facilities and ensure that due process is properly followed which allows for our comments and information to be used in this fight.
D: Work towards community members becoming more familiar with how to collect data and understand the power of witnessing and documenting environmental harms and changes that threaten the ecosystems around them. We also seek to build an understanding of the governing and permitting process, such that we can work to hold our state agencies accountable.
@Bee - Community Fellow and Project Advisor
@Giiwedin - Community Engagement Fellow
@JuliaGuerrein - Environmental Policy Fellow
@noah_ben_furman - Documentation Fellow
Timeline of Huber Mill OSB Factory and Talon-Rio Tinto Mine
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