Nonferrous Mining on Anishinaabeg Ceded Lands and the Effects on Manoomin (Wild Rice).
The development of nonferrous mining districts on Anishinaabe ceded lands without the consultation and consent of tribes in the affected area.
Extractive Industries - Mining
PolyMet/Glencore, Twin Metals/Antofagasta, Kennecott/Rio Tinto.
State institutions and legislation related to the case:
Minnesota State Legislature; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
Indigenous peoples or communities:
The following Minnesota Anishinaabeg Bands: Gichi-onigaming (Grand Portage), Nagaajiwanaag (Fond du Lac), Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag (Leech Lake), Asabekone-zaaga'iganing (Nett Lake), Gaa-waabaabiganikaag (White Earth), Misi-zaaga'iganing, Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag (Sandy Lake), and Miskwaagamiwi-zaaga'iganing (Red Lake).
Legal status of the indigenous lands at the site:
All Anishinaabeg bands cited have sovereign status and reserved treaty rights under treaties with the U.S. government.
Usufructuary rights - hunting, fishing, and gathering rights - retained under treaties. These rights are recognized in Federal Indian Law (U.S. v. Winyans/1905; Winter v. U.S./1908; Tulee v. State of Washington/1942. Additionally, these rights have been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Minnesota v. Mille Lacs/1999.
Problems or opportunities created by the Project:
Sulfates released from nonferrous mining impacts manoomin (wild rice) and manoomin ecosystems. Sulfates that are released drift into river and lake sediment and convert to hydrogen sulfide which, in turn, destroys manoomin. Sulfates also convert into methyl-mercury that enters into the human food chain via fish.
Evaluation of environmental, social, cultural, and human rights impacts:
Manoomin (Wild Rice)is a traditional food staple of Anishinaabe people. Anishinaabe people have been gathering manoomin for hundreds of years. In addition to a food resource, it is also a cultural, spiritual, economic, and environmental resource. Manoomin is protected under reserved treaty rights. It is essential to the health and well-being of the Anishinaabe people.
Measures taken to mitigate harm or protect rights:
The most concerning problem in Minnesota are the legislative attempts to revise or eliminate the current Wild Rice/Sulfate Water Quality Standard. The standard was set in 1973. Under state law, the standard was set at 10 milligrams per liter to protect manoomin (wild rice). Because proposed nonferrous extractive industries can't meet the standard, legislators have attempted to raise the standard to 50 milligrams per liter or to eliminate it entirely. Raising the threshold over the current standard will destroy the manoomin. At this point, legislators and mining executives have marginalized the reserved treaty rights in ceded land areas. In other words, reserved treaty rights are not being recognized. Failure to recognize reserved treaty rights will allow for the destruction of the manoomin. In turn, this affects the health and well-being of the Anishinaabe people.
It should be noted that there is approximately 64,000 acreage of manoomin that grows annually in Minnesota. Approximately 43,000 manoomin acreage will be affected by proposed nonferrous mining districts.
Currently, the indigenous effort to protect this sovereign food resource is through Protect Our Manoomin. Protect Our Manoomin is a Minnesota Anishinaabe grassroots organization that provides education and outreach in regard to manoomin and nonferrous mining. It is recognized in the environmental community for its work.
Consultation and consent:
Currently, there have been no efforts by the state legislature or nonferrous extractive industries to engage tribes in a meaningful dialogue in regard to treaty rights or ceded land rights. It is clear that legislators and nonferrous mining industries intend to move ahead without the consent of tribes. This is a violation of treaty rights that have been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and by Federal Indian laws.
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