TAMARACK, MN – Honor the Earth, WaterLegacy, and Earthworks sent a letter signed by 80 Minnesota and national non-governmental organizations (NGO) to President Joe Biden, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opposing the Administration’s premature commitment of $114,846,344 to Talon Metals to build a processing plant in North Dakota for a proposed nickel mine in north central Minnesota, near the town of Tamarack.
Although Talon Metals has long touted its plan to mine a “massive sulphide mineralization” with “district scale” potential in the headwaters of the Mississippi River, Talon only submitted its initial mining plan for consideration by regulators on June 21, 2023. The Talon nickel mine has undergone no environmental study and has received no permits. Although Talon has engaged in public relations, the company has conducted no consultation with affected Indigenous communities, obtained no tribal consent, and provided no information to the community on impacts to local or downstream waters.
The NGO letter available here cites concerns of both Native and non-Native community members about the Talon mine’s adverse impacts to water quality, wild rice (a sacred food and staple of the Anishinaabe people), rare peatland and forested wetlands, the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Big Sandy Lake, which is not only a vital wild rice lake, but the site of a historic loss of Anishinaabe life brought on by actions of the federal government.
The NGO letter calls upon the Biden Administration to take the following actions:
- Commit to release no subsidy funds for Talon Metals unless and until environmental review, tribal consultation, and permitting are completed and tribal consent secured.
- Prepare a federal environmental impact statement reflecting cumulative impacts of mining the entire Tamarack mineral body that Talon Metals controls.
- Consider tribal treaty-reserved rights, wetlands, and ecosystem values in determining whether the water resources that would be affected by the Talon mine must be protected under the Clean Water Act.
- Allocate one-fourth of the proposed Talon mine subsidy amount to the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with tribes and the EPA to study hydrology and potential impacts of mining and mine dewatering on groundwater, surface water, and wetlands.
Krystal Two Bulls, Executive Director for Indigenous-led environmental non-profit Honor the Earth, stated, “For hundreds of years Indigenous livelihoods, culture, health, and even the lives of our people themselves have been sacrificed because mining and timber companies wanted our land for profit. Subsidizing the Talon Metals mine without tribal consultation and consent would repeat this shameful history and prevent a just transition to solve the climate crisis.”
Paula Maccabee, Advocacy Director and Counsel for Minnesota-based environmental protection and justice non-profit WaterLegacy, emphasized, “It’s irresponsible to subsidize a nickel mine before environmental review, tribal consultation, or permitting has even begun. Every sulfide mine in a water-rich environment has failed to protect water quality. Lakes, streams, and peatlands in the Mississippi River headwaters are particularly vulnerable to mine dewatering, acid mine drainage, and mercury contamination of fish. Federal funds should be used for hydrology science, not to short-circuit mine review even before it starts.”
Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel for Earthworks, a national advocacy group for a just and clean energy future, explained, “We are in the midst of an existential climate crisis, and must accelerate the transition to renewable energy–yet we must do so without repeating the injustices of dirty fossil fuel extraction. An effective and just solution to the climate crisis depends on preserving, not destroying the wetlands that sequester carbon and the clean water that sustains life. Metals recycling will allow development of electric vehicles without sacrificing front-line communities.”
- The NGO letter signed by 80 environmental, civic, and faith groups is available here.
Talon Metals Proposed Nickel Mine in Tamarack, Minnesota
The Talon Metals nickel copper and cobalt mine is proposed in the north central Minnesota county of Aitkin, which, based on harvesting trips, has the highest wild rice abundance in Minnesota. Nearly the entire area is wetlands, streams, or lakes in the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the wild and scenic St. Croix River. Talon controls 31,000 acres of private lands and state mineral leases (about twice the acreage of Manhattan, NY).
- A map of Talon mineral leases, drilling sites, and Tamarack area water features is available here.