The Shell River in northwestern Minnesota was crossed five times by Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline. Water protectors monitored the condition of the river by water and air.
The lead image was pulled from drone footage by River Akemann
The Project Issue: Proposed Huber lumber processing plant and Talon metals mine in Northern Minnesota
The beginnings of the Mississippi River 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, water, and habitat of many species of plants and animals. These counties hold precious manoomin (wild rice) beds, the sacred food of the Anishinaabeg, the people whose land these counties occupy. Last year (2021), as we fought Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, we saw our state environmental agencies receive money from a Canadian oil company while neglecting their duty to protect or even monitor our "natural resources''. In response, communities have done their own surveillance and water testing. Because of this community science, at least four terrible catastrophes were found, including three frac-outs and an aquifer breach. 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 on all that we can: water quality, species habitat status, species present and/or nesting in and near affected areas...
These two proposed projects bring many risks to northern Minnesota. One of the projects 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. This project will affect five tribes in northern Minnesota (Leech Lake, Red Lake, Boise Fort, White Earth, and Mille Lacs). The project is, so far, exempt from needing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The other project we must protect our land and waters from is the 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 contain metals (such as nickel, copper and cobalt) that are bonded to sulfur, forming sulfide minerals. When these ores are exposed to air and moisture, a chemical reaction occurs that generates sulfuric acid that migrates into the surrounding environment and, through leaching, releases heavy metals present in the waste rock, pit walls, and tailings basins of mining operations. The sulfuric acid along with dissolved heavy metals released onto the land will seep into the rich aquifers below and then into streams and lakes at levels that are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. 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." (https://tamarackwateralliance.org/dangers.html)
To protect the land, waters, and air from these dangerous, extractive industries, we will collect data on the presence and count of species in and near the areas that are at risk from these projects. We will especially concentrate on the presence and health of the manoomin and its habitat. We will work with local organizations and communities to create a campaign, socially and legally, to try to stop these projects before they break ground.
The goals of this project are to:
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 (nickle 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.
Community Organizing Fellow and Project Lead: Bee Kakac:
Hello, my name is Bee, I come from a working-class family in rural western Minnesota where I lived most of my life. I am non-native and know that, as a settler descendant, there is much repair to be done and land to give back to Indigenous nations. For the past year, I have been fighting Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline as a frontline water protector and as support for other water protectors and Honor the Earth. I began college at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and earned a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Minnesota State University in Moorhead. I was on hiatus from western science and research until I found community with folks who pair relationship and decolonization with research. I am passionate about justice- sustainable justice- I want to continue to be a part of creating a new foundation of society that holds all of nature and people in a caring way. There are many immense threats to our land, water, and people just here in Minnesota: Line 3 tar sands pipeline, police violence, a new mining project backed by Tesla... I will continue to fight but I also want to protect what we have before it comes under attack.
This project is seeking fellows to join the team.
Read more and apply here for these funded roles: