St. Paul, Minn – Today American Rivers, a national organization focused on protecting U.S. rivers and restoring damaged rivers, named the St. Louis River in Northeastern Minnesota as among America’s Most Endangered Rivers. The impending threat to the St. Louis River cited by American Rivers is pollution from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel sulfide mine at its headwaters.
“The St. Louis River is at a crossroads,” said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “We have spent a billion dollars and years cleaning it up and there is still more to do. We can’t afford to go backwards. PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine poses a threat to the water quality in the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. It’s critical that our state and federal regulators deny permits for mining plans that do not protect the St. Louis River.”
Pollution from PolyMet Mining’s proposed mine would threaten human health, wild rice, and the economic development being spurred by a cleaner St. Louis River. Data in PolyMet’s mine plan show ongoing water treatment would be required long after the mining stops – for 500 years or more.
“The technology to fully protect our clean water for future generations doesn’t exist,” said Andrew Slade, northeastern program coordinator for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “Even the most advanced water treatment does no good if water can’t be captured and treated. No operation of this kind has operated and closed without polluting nearby lakes, rivers, or groundwater. It’s not worth the high risk.”
A 2013 study by the Minnesota Department of Health found that one in 10 infants in the Lake Superior region is born with unsafe levels of mercury, a potent neurotoxin that can cause damage to the nervous system and developmental disabilities in children. Pollution from PolyMet would increase the risk of mercury-contaminated fish in the St. Louis River, the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior and the entire Great Lakes system, and an important regional fishery. Sulfate pollution also threatens wild rice, Minnesota’s state grain and a critical resource for the Ojibwe people.
“Sulfide mining in a water-rich environment like Minnesota is a high-risk gamble, and one we don’t need to take,” said Morse. “We need to protect our water, our families’ health, our wildlife, and taxpayer resources from pollution and harm caused by sulfide mining.”
Read more about the St. Louis River’s American Rivers Most Endangered Rivers designation: www.americanrivers.org/stlouis
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 Great Outdoors. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership engages state leaders, unites environmental efforts and helps citizens take action for the Minnesota they love.