THE BIG IDEA
Northern Minnesota is home to some of the most pristine wilderness and cleanest water in all of America. People from all over the world have enjoyed the majesty of Lake Superior and the beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, an exquisite wilderness kingdom carved out by glaciers that’s persisted for 10,000 years. But now that might change. Two proposed sulfide-ore copper mines threaten the sanctity of these places and may destroy them for future generations. We can’t let that happen.
We are two experienced filmmakers working to tell the story of this region and these mines in an effort to increase awareness of and public opposition to sulfide-ore copper mining in Northern Minnesota. We are continuing to raise fund in order to finance the completion of 7 Generations, a documentary chronicling the story of these mines. We have already made great progress on this film, but need your financial support to cross the finish line and bring this important story to the public. To learn more about this project, sulfide-ore copper mining, and the region threatened by this industry, read below. We thank you for your support!
WHAT WE'RE DOING
We, Tom Deschenes and Andrew Bydlon, are two passionate filmmakers and outdoor adventurers with the spirit of Northern Minnesota running through our souls. We’ve worked together to produce films and advertisements for outdoor brands including Backpacker Magazine, Climbing Magazine, Kokopelli Packraft, Bedrock Sandals, Bote Boards and Yaktrax. We started this project as a small film to tell the world about the wonders of Northern Minnesota, but learning about sulfide-ore copper mining caused us to flip the script. Now we need to protect, not just celebrate, this place.
BOUNDARY WATERS CANOE AREA
SAINT LOUIS RIVER
For that reason, we are raising funds to produce 7 Generations, a film to increase awareness of PolyMet and Twin Metals, two proposed sulfide-ore copper mines in Northern Minnesota.
Like the recent leasing of public lands to mining companies in Bear’s Ears National Monument or the controversial draining of Lake Michigan by a new FoxConn factory, the construction of these mines represents the next step in a long-standing tradition of elected officials and international corporations leveraging public lands, which all Americans have a right to, in the interest of short-term profits.
What we need now is the financial support to make this film a reality. While we have already made sizeable contributions to developing this project, we need more to do this issue justice. Funds from this Kickstarter will be used to cover travel, insurance, filming, editing, and other related costs. We also plan to tour and submit the work to film festivals all across North America to show thousands of people the beauty of Northern Minnesota and the challenges this region is up against, invigorating all of us to fight for this region.
About the film
What started out as a smaller passion project to showcase all of the incredible outdoor activities at our fingertips in Northern Minnesota has evolved as we learned more about the proposed mining projects in this region. Conversations with Minnesotans that began by discussing their favorite outdoor places almost inevitably led to a discussion of the threats these mines pose to those places. These conversations made it clear that we needed to tell this story.
The name of our film comes from the “7th Generation Principle” taught by many Native American tribes, including Northern Minnesota's Fond Du Lac Tribe, who have been at the forefront of the opposition to these mines since the mines were first proposed. The principle states that in making every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must evaluate how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. We came to this name through an interview we did with Fond Du Lac Tribal Elder Ricky Defoe. After Defoe described this principle, we immediately connected with it as the name for our film, and Defoe agreed that this name would help to highlight this principle and the efforts of the Fond Du Lac Tribe throughout our film. Most importantly, this names helps to underscore the importance of considering the impact these mines will have in Northern Minnesota seven generations from now.
Mining has been part of Minnesota’s lifeblood forever, with iron ore mining supporting communities for generations. You might say Minnesotans are the world experts on getting iron out of rock without making a mess. But sulfide-ore copper mining has never been done before in Minnesota. While some believe that Minnesota’s long-standing mining history prepares us for this leap, 7 Generations will make clear that the differences between historic mining in Minnesota and modern sulfide-ore mining are vast and insurmountable.
Sulfide-ore copper mining is more complicated than iron mining. It involves extracting sulfide ore from the surrounding rock, which requires washing the sulfide off with water. When this sulfur mixes with water and air, it creates sulfuric acid, which can have devastating effects to human and environmental health if it leaches into the surrounding groundwater, streams, and lakes. While some see sulfide-ore copper mining as a replacement for the now declining iron mining industry, others see it as a greater threat than it is worth, creating tension even within mining communities.
Because the effects of sulfide-ore copper mining are far-reaching, we've spoken with dozens of people from a wide variety of backgrounds about the risks these mines pose. This list includes Native tribal leaders, medical doctors, biologists, chemists, mining industry professionals, and community leaders.
To address this issue with the respect and the thought it deserves, we need to continue holding conversations like these. We intend to interview environmental lawyers, business owners, lawmakers, and others, in addition to extended interviews with those we've already met. Their stories, alongside compelling visuals of Northern Minnesota and archival footage of past mines, will present a multi-faceted picture of the risks sulfide-ore mining poses for Northern Minnesota and the Great Lakes Region and for the way of life of an entire region.
The two proposed copper-nickel mines are at the headwaters of the St. Louis River, which runs into Lake Superior, home to 10 percent of the world's fresh water, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota's crown jewel and America's most-visited wilderness area. The construction of these mines would endanger some of our planet’s most valuable water resources. Because both of these mines are currently in the permitting process, this film has an opportunity to inform the public at a time when there are still legal challenges to mount and legislative efforts to stall construction.
POLYMET - PolyMet Mining Corporation has proposed their first ever mining project, a sulfide mine called the “NorthMet Project.” A major investor of this mining project is Glencore, a Swiss corporation that has been known for committing human-rights abuses around the world and for anti-labor practices. PolyMet proposes to develop an open-pit mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals. It would be located near the Embarrass and Partridge rivers, which flow directly into the St. Louis River and then Lake Superior.
Wastewater from the PolyMet mine would be kept in open-pit tailing ponds and would need to be treated for an estimated 500 years before it is safe to return to the environment. This treatment could cost as much as $6 million per year. Downstream communities would be protected from these tailings by a 252-foot-tall dam. Both of these design factors were directly attributed to a disaster at another mine, Mount Polley in British Columbia, Canada.
At Mount Polley, an open-pit sulfide-ore mine similar to Polymet, a dam breached and millions of cubic feet of toxic waste from a tailings pond spilled into nearby waterways. Pollutants from this waste settled into the sediment and researchers estimate that these pollutants could persist for thousands of years.
This controversy is why over 58,000 public comments were submitted on the second draft of PolyMet’s environmental review, the largest number of public comments on a Department of Natural Resources project in Minnesota history. This massive response demonstrates just how controversial the Polymet project is to the people that treasure this region.
TWIN-METALS - Twin Metals is the second mine threatening Minnesota's clean water. Twin Metals would be an underground mine proposed to be less than three miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), near the beloved Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake. The over 1 million acres of the BWCA are 20% water and contain 1200 miles of canoe routes, over 1,100 lakes, and nearly half a million acres of old growth forest.
Next door to this, within the Superior National Forest and within the BWCA's watershed, Twin Metals would blast miles of tunnels in search of minerals, creating what they refer to as an "underground city." They intend to store waste from their mining operation in these same tunnels, as well as in above-ground ponds.
The risk of waste from this mine polluting the nearby waters of the BWCA has generated concern among U.S. Forest Service Officials. Also concerning, their ore-processing is now planned to be built on the banks of Birch Lake, where runoff could flow directly into the Boundary Waters.
Funded by Chilean-based Antofagasta, which has been responsible for environmental disasters at similar mines, this mine has the potential to destroy the forests, rivers, and lakes that welcome 250,000 paddlers to the BWCA every year. These tourists contribute $77 million each year to the local economy and sustain the more than 1,000 jobs that make up the tourism and guide industry in the BWCA. In comparison, the Twin Metals Mine promises to provide approximately 650 direct jobs.
WHY THIS IS SO IMPORTANT
Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters are not just beloved pieces of Minnesota. They are international treasures and are some of the most popular natural areas in the world. These resources need to be preserved for generations to come so that they might enjoy the wonders provided by them.
For this reason, it is crucial that this film is made now. As both mines are currently in the planning and permitting stages, increasing public awareness now is critical. While the risks of these mines have been discussed in Minnesota for some time, they have not yet gained the national attention they deserve.
WHY THIS FILM
The stark beauty of Northern Minnesota is indescribable. That is why film is the best way to tell this story. Showing audiences around the world the wonders of this region alongside footage of similar mining projects will help us to demonstrate why we must protect the waters of Northern Minnesota.
Documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth, Chasing Ice, and Food Inc show how valuable film is for educating the public and affecting change. 7 Generations’ primary goal is to demonstrate to the world how important this issue is.
7 Generations will gain a regional and national audience through showings across the state and country. We intend to submit our film to the following festivals: Fresh Coast Film Festival, Telluride Mountainfilm, and Banff Mountain Film Festival, among others.
WHY CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROJECT
This project has evolved organically in response to the community that has sprung up around it. Until now, we’ve donated our own time, money and resources to creating content and building the online platforms where we’ve been sharing it. But we cannot continue without your support.
We are passionate about this film and the positive impact it could have, but it must be done professionally in order to reach and speak to the audiences we most want to reach. We can’t make this happen without your help.
Your contribution will support the production of a comprehensive film. Films are expensive to make, and your contribution will help cover travel, insurance, film crews and expenses, editing and other costs necessary to gather all our footage.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Tom Deschenes and Andrew Bydlon are dedicated filmmakers and adventurers shaped by time spent canoeing, camping, hiking and exploring Northern Minnesota since childhood.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
7 Generations Film is all about community—we’re here not only to raise funds, but awareness as well! If you’re inspired by 7 Generations Film, if you want to see more action being taken, or just want to help protect our freshwater, share our project with your friends and family!
Or encourage them to join the cause and community:
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