WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department's report on copper-nickel mining's environmental effects on international waters shared by the United States and Canada is only eight paragraphs long, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL-Minn., said in a news release Thursday, Feb. 20.

The report, required after language introduced by McCollum in December made it into the 2020 federal funding package signed by President Donald Trump, called on the State Department to report to Congress within 60 days on the potential environmental effects of copper-nickel within the Rainy River Watershed, which drains into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness along the U.S.-Canada border.

"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," the St. Paul congresswoman said. "It embodies the Trump administration’s insulting disregard for science, and fails to acknowledge the need to protect Canada’s waters from toxic transboundary mining pollution."

Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL-St. Paul, speaks to the crowd at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth during the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters Wild Waters Music Fest in August. (2019 file / News Tribune)
Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL-St. Paul, speaks to the crowd at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth during the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters Wild Waters Music Fest in August. (2019 file / News Tribune)

The report was supposed to include the characteristics of the hydrology and ecosystem of the BWCAW as well as Canada's Quetico Provincial Park, and copper-nickel mining's impact on Canada; the U.S. government's plan for monitoring and mitigating risk from acid mine drainage polluting Canadian waters; and the U.S. government's efforts to notify Canada about potential cross-boundary pollution from copper-nickel mining.

It was also a way to recommit the U.S. government to its international partnership with Canada under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, which states that waters flowing across the two nation's boundaries should not be polluted, McCollum said.

The report was not available for review by the Duluth News Tribune.

"It is standing policy that these types of responses are not publicly released," McCollum spokesperson Amanda Yanchury said. "Appropriations Committee staff and members of Congresswoman McCollum’s staff were able to review the report yesterday after it had been transmitted from the State Department to the Committee."

But McCollum called on Canadian's elected officials to pressure the Trump administration to publicly release the State Department report.

Twin Metals, a mining company owned by Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta, wants to build an underground copper-nickel mine near Ely, within the Rainy River Watershed and on the edge of the BWCAW. Critics of the mine worry it would send tainted runoff into the BWCAW while supporters say it would improve the region's economy.

In 2016, President Barack Obama ordered a different study on the effects of sulfide-ore mining near the BWCAW that was later canceled by the Trump administration.

McCollum has also introduced a bill that would ban copper-nickel mining within the 220,000 acres of the Superior National Forest and within the Rainy River Watershed.