photo credit: NASA
On January 5, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources marked a major development in the PolyMet debate by releasing a draft Permit to Mine for the sulfide mining project. The permit is one of several that PolyMet would require to move forward with its proposed mine near Hoyt Lakes in Northeastern Minnesota, but its approval would be a major step toward allowing the mining operation to begin. By releasing this draft permit, the DNR has given PolyMet a signal that Minnesota may soon allow it to begin this hazardous project.
The PolyMet mine would be built in the St. Louis River watershed, where its toxic waste would be an ongoing threat to downstream communities like the Fond du Lac Reservation, as well as the waters of Lake Superior. Unlike taconite iron mining in Minnesota, this mine would create acid runoff pollution, which PolyMet intends to store behind a massive forty-year-old dam. The mine would only operate for twenty years, while the dam would have to be maintained indefinitely to prevent a catastrophic spill.
This mine poses a troubling threat to the health and livelihood of Minnesota’s communities. Our state should not be put on the hook for many years of cleanup for the damage to our lands and waters for sulfide mining, which the majority of Minnesotans don’t want to see happen here. Said MEP Executive Director Steve Morse:
“This would be Minnesota’s first ever sulfide mining project, and no mine of this type has operated and closed without polluting local waters with acid-mine drainage. The plan also relies on outdated technology and a flawed tailings basin. The long-term risks to the safety and health of downstream communities and Lake Superior far outweigh the short-term benefits; the mine will only be operational for 20 years, but will need active water treatment plants for hundreds of years after it closes.”
Fortunately, the fight isn’t over. The DNR has opened a comment period on the draft permit from January 5 to March 6, allowing members of the public to comment on and object to the permit. They will also hold hearings in Aurora on February 7 and in Duluth on February 8. This is a critical time for Minnesotans to speak up! We need to let the DNR know that Minnesotans will not stand for a dangerous sulfide mine that would harm our communities now and for generations to come.