For Immediate Release
Friday, January 5, 2018
Contact: Steve Morse, 651.789.0653
Sara Wolff, 651.491.1229
PolyMet Permit to Mine Released; Environmental Community Maintains Opposition
January 5, 2018 (Saint Paul, Minn.) – Earlier today, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the Permit to Mine for the PolyMet open-pit sulfide mining project in Northeastern Minnesota. The PolyMet Sulfide Mine poses a direct threat to Lake Superior and communities downstream, including the Fond du Lac Reservation. Sulfide mining is different from taconite mining, and no mine of this type has operated and closed without pollution to nearby lakes, streams, or groundwater.
The PolyMet mining plan is based on flawed science, and poses the risk of catastrophic failure. The mine will require continuous water treatment of the waste hundreds of years after the mine closes, even though PolyMet only plans to operate the mine for 20 years.
The plan includes reusing a forty year old, leaky dam and storing sulfide mine waste on top of an unstable foundation of old taconite mine waste. If this dam were to fail, mine waste would contaminate the St. Louis River, impacting thousands of people who depend on this water and potentially polluting Lake Superior.
According to a non-partisan poll produced by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership in 2017, 72% of Minnesotans are concerned about runoff from mines threatening to pollute the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior. In the same poll, respondents were asked if they were in favor of or opposed to sulfide mining. 52% reported they were opposed to sulfide mining.1
Below is a statement from Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s executive director Steve Morse on the release of the Permit to Mine:
“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. This plan relies on outdated technology and a flawed tailings basin.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.”
1Minnesota Environmental Partnership; Public Opinion Strategies; Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. “Minnesota Voters’ Environmental Priorities in 2017: Results of a Statewide Voter Survey Conducted Feb 1-5, 2017.” Available here: https://www.mepartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Public_Mining-Polling-results.pdf.
1 Minnesota Environmental Partnership; Public Opinion Strategies; Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. “Minnesota Voters’ Environmental Priorities in 2017: Results of a Statewide Voter Survey Conducted Feb 1-5, 2017.” Available here: https://www.mepartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Public_Mining-Polling-results.pdf.
About Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a coalition of more than 70 environmental, conservation, and civic organizations working together for clean water, clean energy, and protection of our natural resources. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership engages state leaders, unites environmental efforts, and helps citizens take action for the Minnesota they love.
I agree with MEP executive director Steve Morse’s statement above on the release of the Permit to Mine.
I truly hope you can convince the Democratic candidates for governor who are just allowing “the science” and that they’re passing through the EIS, etc enough to convince them that copper sulfide mining should proceed. I was very unhappy with 4 of the 6 candidates views at the Minnesota Governor Candidate Forum this evening (though pleased with the Forum – well done!) Clearly more work needs to be done educating most of the candidates in detail, and the general public in the basics as it regards the likelihood of water pollution from the proposed mines in this pristine, water-rich area.
Somehow the forest cannot be seen for the trees on the mining issue. As far as I can see, I don’t think Minnesota should trust Glencore Xstrata to conduct responsible water monitoring for 50 years, say nothing of 500 – or more. Even if the containment system were more reliable. We should not place our trust or form partnerships with these two mining companies with their abysmal environmental record.
BTW, I was fairly pleased with my fellow Minnesotan’s after reading your MEP poll from Feb ’17 showing that 72% were “concerned about mine runoff”. And that “urban and rural voters both express high levels of concern about this issue”. We Minnesotans REALLY are not comfortable with the mines near our beloved BWCA. And with those 92% of mine failures in the U. S. that Rep. McCollum mentioned to Sec. Zinke, it’s no wonder we aren’t comfortable. Being the most visited Wilderness Area in the nation (as I understand), many others who may or may not even be following the mining issue would likely very uncomfortable, too.
So how can the word be spread beyond just expressing opinions to the DNR during the comment period?
Thinking bigger here:
Perhaps Jim Brandenburg could be enticed to create a short documentary showing the pristine beauty and telling the story of our BWCA, also revealing the failures of similar mines in the U.S. and in Canada? (I truly love Jim’s moving, thoughtful and gorgeous video “Chased By the Light” and his photos premiered at the Bell Museum!)
Or may I suggest “Three Billboards Over Minnesota”? – though with educational and inspiring messages, please.
Thank you sincerely for all you do!
Diane Hilscher, Landscape Architect/ecologist