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Tamarack Water Alliance Questions Necessity, Safety of Talon Metals Nickel Mine in Aitkin County

Tamarack Water Alliance Logo
The Tamarack Water Alliance opposes the Talon Metals proposed nickel mine in Aitkin County.

Lynn Anderson is a member of Tamarack Water Alliance, a group that opposes Talon Metals proposed nickel mine in Aitkin County, Minnesota. Talon is looking to expand domestic sources of nickel, a key element in batteries used in the electric vehicle industry. Anderson joined Heidi Holtan on the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show to explain Tamarack Water Alliance's opposition to the proposed mine. Click the "Listen" player above to hear the full interview.

According to Anderson, Tamarack Water Alliance is "a group of local residences and land owners working together to protect water and community health from sulfide mining near lakes and wild rice beds at the headwaters of the Kettle River and in the Mississippi River watershed area."

The Tamarack Water Alliance has been working to build community support over opposition to the proposed mine. "There are people in the community who want jobs," Anderson said. "There are other people in the community that are deeply concerned. That includes local people who do not think this is the right place for a sulfide mine. There are just so many other ways to build a viable economic boost as opposed to sulfide mining."

Chief among the concerns raised by Anderson and the Tamarack Water Alliance is the fact that the market for the mined nickel is not as stable as Talon argues. "The EV market is very fluid and nickel is not going to be used in the future for EV car batteries," Anderson said. "Elon Musk reported last July that he was moving the whole industry away from nickel, lithium-nickel, and cobalt because it's too expensive. There's also new sodium ion EV batteries being developed in China."

Earlier in 2022, Talon entered into a supply-agreement with TESLA to provide resources to the company for its EV battery diodes.

But even with market fluctuations, Tamarack Water Alliance's main opposition to the proposed mine has to do with the unknown environmental impacts it would have on the water, land, and air of Aitkin County. "Any time a sulfide mine has been placed in a water rich area, it has polluted the water," Anderson said. "At the Michigan Eagle Mine that Talon holds up as the epitome of a great mine, they show at least 17 monitoring events that show levels of pollution and water chemistry changes outside the planned benchmark range."

"Talon estimates 2,600,000 gallons of water will be pumped from our aquifer, and that's one of our main concerns. If they're pumping that much water out of our aquifers, what is that going to do to the aquifers, our lake levels, our rivers, our swamps, and our wetlands and wells?" Anderson asked.

The question of treaty rights and wild rice cultivation is also something that Tamarack Water Alliance is concerned with. "Wild rice is very sensitive and there is a wild rice sulfate standard here in Minnesota that must be protected," Anderson said. "Methyl Mercury is generated from the acid mine drainage, and once it gets into the system it gets into the food chai, the fish, it would kill the wild rice, and we have some prime wild rice lakes here in this area."

KAXE will continue to cover this topic from as many community perspectives as possible. To read our existing coverage, check out KAXE.org. And if you'd like to leave a comment about the proposed Talon Metals mine in Aitkin County, email us at Comments@KAXE.org or text 218-326-1234.

Heidi Holtan has worked at KAXE/KBXE for over 20 years. She currently helms the Morning Show as News and Public Affairs Director. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North. In 2018 Heidi received the “Building Bridges in Media” award from the Islamic Resource Group for her work on KAXE/KBXE hosting conversations about anti-Muslim movements in rural Minnesota.
Max Philbrook (he/him) is a Producer at KAXE focused on telling the stories of the people, events, and organizations that make up the fabric of northern Minnesota. Based out of Grand Rapids, Max spends his time reading fiction at the library, seeing sports and live music, and supporting the arts and cultural events in the area. Get in touch with Max if you have a story to tell, an event to publicize, or just want to chat about life in the northland.