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McCollum Statement on State Department Response to Sulfide-ore Copper Mining Impacts on Canada’s Boundary Waters

February 20, 2020
Press Release

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) released the following statement today after the State Department responded to a directive from Congress within the Fiscal Year 2020 conference spending agreement:

At my request during the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process, the House Appropriations Committee explicitly directed the State Department to report on proposed sulfide copper-ore mining on federal land in northeastern Minnesota’s Rainy River Watershed with regard to hydrology, impact, mitigation, and bilateral implications of acid mine drainage polluting Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park in violation of the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. The State Department’s eight-paragraph response would be excellent for a grade school-level book report, but as a report to Congress it is an embarrassingly inadequate document. It embodies the Trump administration’s insulting disregard for science, and fails to acknowledge the need to protect Canada’s waters from toxic cross-boundary mining pollution.

“Just like the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Interior have repeatedly ignored the potentially poisonous effects of sulfide-ore copper mining on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the State Department is willing to ignore the toxic consequences of acid mine drainage on Canada’s natural resources. It is my hope that Canada’s elected leaders will call on the Trump administration to publicly release this State Department report.  

“During the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations process, I intend to advance the need for a mining pollution early warning system to protect our cross-boundary waters and prevent treaty violations. The waters shared by the U.S. and Canada must be protected, and I will work with our Canadian neighbors to ensure we meet our obligations to our citizens as well as future generations.”


  • The 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty states that “…the waters herein defined as boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.”
  • The Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill report, included in the final Fiscal Year 2020 conference spending agreement, states on page 31: Rainy River Drainage Basin.—The Committee supports the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and the goal of limiting pollution of boundary waters. The Committee is concerned that decisions made by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Interior to approve mineral leases in the Superior National Forest will result in an operational sulfide-ore copper mine that risks polluting the waters within the Rainy River Drainage Basin flowing into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Ontario, Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department of State to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 60 days of enactment of this Act detailing: the characteristics of the Boundary Waters-Quetico ecosystem and the hydrology of the Rainy River Drainage Basin and its impact on Canada; U.S. Government plans to monitor and mitigate the risk of acid mine drainage originating in the Superior National Forest polluting Canadian waters; and United States efforts to inform the Government of Canada on the potential for cross-boundary pollution resulting from sulfide-ore copper mining in the Superior National Forest.