A landmark environmental decision is going down that concerns our entire state, and the only public hearing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is happening on Tuesday Jan 28, 2014. Here’s the scoop:
Vancouver based mining company PolyMet is seeking approval for an extremely risky type of mining unprecedented in Minnesota, on land that is federally protected national forest. The proposed mine would extract copper and nickel from rock, leaving sulfide rich ore; which produces sulfuric acid (like battery acid) if exposed to water or air in the mining process. Sulfide mining is part of the hard rock mining industry, which has been identified by the EPA as the largest toxic-waste producing industry in the U.S..
With any sulfide mining there is risk of acid mine drainage. Sulfide mining in water-intensive areas has never been done without contaminating surrounding waters. The proposed “NorthMet” mine site (near Hoyt Lakes in Superior National Forest) is part of the St. Louis River watershed, which flows into Lake Superior. Pollution from acid mine drainage can persist indefinitely (2500-10,000 years).
Calculating costs and guaranteeing that monetary resources are in place for the monumental long-term clean up required is a daunting task; any miscalculation or oversight could leave taxpayers footing the bill. PolyMet’s Environmental Impact Statement for the project indicates “a high probability that sulfide-mining contamination of surface water, sediments, ground water and soil cannot be cleaned up in our lake district,” C.A. Arneson writes in an article for MinnPost. “Money cannot fix the unfixable — or replace the irreplaceable.” In his article, Arneson names several reasons why PolyMet’s closed loop water treatment approach will not work.
PolyMet currently owns mineral rights to the NorthMet site, but would need to be granted surface rights from the US Forest Service to proceed. For this deal to go down, a land swap would occur, giving the US Forest Service different parcels of land adjacent to Superior National Forest, in exchange for the mineral rich NorthMet site that PolyMet wishes to mine.
PolyMet is an inexperienced “junior” mining company whose original 2010 proposal for NorthMet was given the lowest possible rating by the EPA (Unsatisfactory-Inadequate). They have demonstrated evasiveness regarding environmental and labor issues. They are financed by Swiss mining giant Glencore, which has a sketchy environmental track record. Like turning a creek to concrete in a botched environmental repair job. Glencore’s Chairman of the Board is Tony Hayward, who was running BP at the time of the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Superior National Forest was established in 1909 by Teddy Roosevelt, against bitter opposition from commercial interests, as a national treasure. Let’s not squander his visionary foresight in protecting this region.
Wisconsin has banned sulfide mining until it can be proven safe, and to me this is the only sane choice for Minnesota. There are way too many red flags on this project.
Come to the public hearing in St. Paul this coming Tuesday. RSVP to the Sierra Club, they will provide you with key talking points, if you wish. Sign a petition. Send an email comment to MDNR before March 13 2014. If you are concerned, please spread the word and speak out to stop the NorthMet mine from being green-lighted.
Public Hearing on PolyMet “NorthMet” Sulfide Mine
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
5 p.m. – Open House, 6:45 p.m. – Presentation and public comment period
St. Paul River Centre
175 West Kellogg Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55102