Couple returns after a year exploring the Boundary Waters

The Freemans spent the year in the wild to bring attention to what they say are threats from proposed mines.

A couple who spent a whole year exploring the Boundary Waters have returned to civilization.

Dave and Amy Freeman of Grand Marais came out of the wilderness on Friday, paddling in on their canoe as more than 200 people gathered to cheer them on, WCCO said.

The Freemans spent the year in the wild to bring attention to what they say are threats from proposed Twin Metals sulfide-ore copper mining, according to the Save the Boundary Waters website.

They traveled thousands of miles

The couple started their journey on the edge of the Boundary Waters in Ely on Sept. 23, 2015, setting a goal to visit 500 lakes, rivers, and streams, Save the Boundary Waters says.

When they returned to the Kawisihiwi River near Twin Metals' proposed mines site on Friday, they had traveled over 2,000 miles by canoe, dog team, snowshoes, skis, and on foot, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

They documented the adventure on social media with daily blog posts, podcasts, and plenty of photos.

The explorers told Outside magazine that their biggest obstacles while living in the great wide open were posting to social media, traveling on ice, privacy, filing their taxes, and leaving the wilderness after spending so much time alone.

"We have been forever changed by the Wilderness and will leave it knowing that we must speak loudly for this quiet place, and that our collected voices have the power to effect change, ensuring that wild places like the Boundary Waters remain for future generations," the couple posted on Instagram.

The mining issue

Since 2008, several mining companies have applied for permits to conduct drilling on state and federal lands near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), according to Outside magazine.

Twin Metals is one of two companies that wants explore copper-nickel mining in the region.

Sulfide-ore copper mining produces waste that can leach sulfuric acid, heavy metals, and sulfates into the air and water. Pollution from the proposed mines would flow into the Boundary Waters, and a single mine could continually pollute the area for at least 500 years, according to Save the Boundary Waters.

The BWCA is America's most visited wilderness area, with 1.1 million acres of "pristine water and unspoiled woodlands," the website says.

Gov. Mark Dayton has stated his opposition to mining near the protected wilderness area. He has directed the Department of Natural Resources not to allow Twin Metals access to state lands.

Twin Metals sued the federal government last week over their right to mine near the BWCA.

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