DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr (mn.gov).
by Steve Timmer
Jul 28, 2013, 8:00 AM

The Commish mines him some bulls**t Part II

The Miracle of the Immaculate Extraction

I refer to the brief piece I wrote Friday about DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr’s remarks to the Mesabi Daily News that, well, let’s hear it from Tom:

His answer was quick. “We don’t mine sulfides,” he said. “We mine minerals.”

The commissioner is apparently a believer in the magical religious doctrine called the Miracle of the Immaculate Extraction.

According to the Miracle, things can be removed from the midst of other things without disturbing these other things. Like pulling a tablecloth out from under dishes set on a table. Some adherents to this doctrine also seek out faith healers to have cancers removed from their bodies without surgery or chemotherapy.

The result is broken dishes and growing tumors. Well, that, and shattered faith. But the Commissioner does have faith at the present time; he also said in the interview:

There can be dangers of sulfides from treatment of waste rock in mining, if done poorly. But that can be done well, also, he said.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Believers in the Miracle of the Immaculate Extraction have their own holy grotto where they believe the miracle of Immaculate Extraction occurred. Quoting from an earlier story here:

An example of that is a mine that has been touted by the mining industry as a model of extraction without environmental harm, the Flambeau mine in Wisconsin. That seemed to be true shortly after the mine was closed but a few short years later, levels of copper and zinc toxic to aquatic life were found in half the samples of surface water surrounding the mine.

The Flambeau mine, operated for only five years, was tiny (32 acres, I think), dwarfed by the proposals of PolyMet and Twin Metals Minnesota. Yet, the Flambeau mine, the industry’s poster child, was found by a federal court in July, 2012 to have violated the Clean Water Act several times.

The Commissioner’s belief in the Immaculate Extraction ought to be of concern to you, kids, because of Minn. Stat. § 93.49 (2012). It says:

The commissioner shall require a bond or other security or other financial assurance satisfactory to the commissioner from an operator. The commissioner shall review annually the extent of each operator’s financial assurance under this section.

A operator’s compliance with its permit and with environmental law is what is being “assured” here. And it is up to the commissioner to decide. Will a commissioner who believes in the Miracle of the Immaculate Extraction be tough on a mine operator to prove its compliance and back it up with financial assurances, or will he accept the blandishments of the mining company on faith?

It’s a critical question that we’ll explore more next time.

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