The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is taking a stand as water protectors in northeast Minnesota.
The Band’s Department of Natural Resources launched its Water Over Nickel initiative just last month. Its goal? To protect cultural resources, sacred medicines and its people in Aitkin County. Which could be hurt by proposed nickel mining.
“This initiative is led by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe… And we want to bring attention to the concerns that we have. Those concerns related to the water, the land, the air, the potential effects on our sacred Mahnomen. Our wild rice. And ultimately the culture of our people,” said Kelly Applegate, the Mille Lacs Band Commissioner of Natural Resources, recently speaking with Minnesota Native News’ Emma Needham.
Applegate and the Mille Lacs Band have formed alliances with environmental experts Earthjustice and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy to combat nickel mining at the proposed mine in Tamarack.
“The area of Tamarack is all interconnected through water in the hydrology there the rivers streams, the pristine wetlands, they all interconnect and if there’s a disaster that happens and pollution that would happen from this mine, this could affect the water of, of the entire area, which as we know, as Native people, we rely on resources that depend upon clean water, everything from our medicinal plants to drinking water to the water that is home to our sacred Mahnomen,” said Applegate.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, says that the metal mining industry is responsible for 44% of the toxic releases into the nation’s land, air, and water. And, the EPA shows nickel is most dangerous to people, plants, and other animals when they breathe particles from the air, or absorb them from sources of water.
At the same time, many environmentalists are demanding for more high-grade nickel to make batteries, like those powering electric vehicles.
Applegate, with the Mille Lacs Band DNR, says they just want to strike the right environmental balance.
“We need to bring forward our concerns, because in the push from both state and federal agencies, this push to move towards the green economy, has really left the concerns out
of that we have as, as a tribal nation,” said Applegate.
Talon Metals Corp, the mining company proposing the Tamarack Mine, is registered in the British Virgin Islands. And, Talon Metals has already agreed to supply Tesla with at least 165 million pounds of high-grade nickel from its potential Tamarack Intrusive Complex. Which would be located less than a mile and a half from Mille Lacs Band families at Round Lake; and near Rice Lake and Sandy Lake, both important Ojibwe cultural sites.
Minnesota Native News reporter Emma Needham contributed to this story, written and edited by Sam Choo.
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