A serious talk about sulfide mining
It’s time for a serious talk among environmentalists about sulfide mining in Minnesota.
A serious and uncomfortable talk.
As readers here know, the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the proposed PolyMet open-pit copper was issued on Friday (of course), November 13th. The public has 30 days from that date to comment on the FEIS. Which is absurd and comical, of course, because it about 3,000 pages long.
But never mind; 30 days is 30 days.
There are a number of things not to like about the FEIS: a water model that may not accurately predict the flow of ground water under the already admittedly-leaking tailings basin that PolyMet got from the bankrupt taconite producer, LTV (boy, that’s encouraging, isn’t it?); the virtual lack of any description of how the complete financial lightweight PolyMet will cover the damage it could cause to the state and to its citizens; and lack of any assurance that PolyMet’s offal won’t make the St. Louis River watershed and those who depend on it sick. Well, and the list goes on.
There are several environmental organizations, collected around an umbrella organization, Mining Truth, who have hurled themselves at this project to stop it. It’s been a dogged, gut-punching effort the whole way, and the outcome is uncertain.
Which is why the effort needs everybody on board.
Which is also why the silence of Save the BWCA on PolyMet is so inexplicable. To give you an example of what I am talking about, here’s a bit from my Twitter feed a few days ago:
Everybody, almost, is screaming about the PolyMet FEIS. I am preparing a comment on the FEIS, directed primarily to financial assurances, a field that I believe I know something about. I’ll share it with you when it’s done.
This needs the engagement of the entire environmental community, though, including Save the BWCA. Even if the BWCA is all you care about – and I hope it’s not – this is your fight, too.
Remember that water model I mentioned earlier? Well, some water modeling for the PolyMet plant shows mine water flow into the BWCA.
Antofagasta, the mining company that owns a number of mining leases near the BWCA, has also expressed interest in using the crushing plant and (leaky) tailings basin that PolyMet got from LTV. It would make a mining operation much easier and cheaper.
And make no mistake, PolyMet is the “snowplow” mine. If PolyMet is a go, it makes the second one, and the third, much easier.
So to be completely direct about it, I think that it is shortsighted to ignore PolyMet. If you support the objects of Save the BWCA, I hope that you will recognize that the best way to achieve them is to pitch in on the fight to Stop PolyMet.
There are two principal ways to do that. First, you can send Governor Dayton an email to let him know of your opposition. You can bet that Mining Minnesota and supporters of PolyMet are sending the same message to their supporters.
Second, and a little more work, is provide a comment to the DNR on the FEIS. Pick the issue that scares you the most: financial concerns, damage to water in the St. Louis River watershed or the BWCA, or the health risk to Minnesotans. Or whatever it is that worries you.
But please do it. And do it soon.
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