St. Louis River - Photo by Rob Levine
by Steve Timmer
Mar 17, 2021, 3:00 PM

Read the latest Spotty ™ winner

In the paper edition of the Star Tribune today, St. Patrick’s Day, Governor Arne Carlson, Tom Berkelman, Janet Entzel, and Chris Knopf had a letter that wins a Spotty™.

Former Gov. Mark Dayton’s commentary (“Sulfide mining has no business near the BWCA,” Opinion Exchange, March 10) relative to banning copper-nickel mining near the BWCA is excellent as far as it goes. Unfortunately, he fails to mention the PolyMet mine just 8 miles away. Twin Metals and PolyMet will emit the same poisonous effluents into valuable waters [including groundwater], including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior, respectively. Further, both are shell corporations spun out by foreign conglomerates, Antofagasta and Glencore, and both have extensive records of alleged international corruption including breach of contract, bribery, money laundering, child labor, etc. Unbelievably, the state contracts are with the shells, which have no financial capacity to pay for likely damages, while the wealthy parent companies escape liability, thereby leaving the Minnesota taxpayer on the hook.

In January 2019, a holding dam in Brazil burst, killing 270 people and causing over $7 billion in damages. The consultant for the design of that dam is now working for PolyMet on its dam in Minnesota.

Not a single elected official nor the media have given any explanation why one project is acceptable and the other not. Further, the Legislature, controlled by both parties, and the governor have refused to hold public hearings or respond to any questions including the absence of a health study, the failure of the contract to hold either Antofagasta or Glencore responsible, or even tell us, the public, why we are doing business with such corrupt companies.

We agree with a moratorium, but for both projects and while a comprehensive water study is conducted, preferably by the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic.

This letter was submitted by Arne H. Carlson, a Republican governor of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999; Tom Berkelman, a DFL member of the Minnesota House from 1977 to 1983; Janet Entzel, a DFL member of the Minnesota House from 1975 to 1984; and Chris Knopf, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The different levels of concern for the PolyMet open pit mine and the Twin Metals underground mine are troubling, to put it mildly. The letter’s authors call for a comprehensive water study. It has been known that PolyMet’s water model is flawed and based on scant data. But the DNR said it wasn’t a “deal breaker.”

The St. Louis River watershed is critical to the Ojibwe, and the Fond du Lac band especially, for the treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather on ceded land by treaty and because the St. Louis runs through the band’s reservation.

Yet there are people and organizations, like Governor Dayton, who profess great concern about Twin Metals, but are silent on PolyMet.

If you are on Twitter, at least in Minnesota, you’ve also seen promoted tweets from Patagonia® professing concern and financial support for the BWCAW. It also tweets about its concern about environmental justice.

But crickets about PolyMet and the Ojibwe.

I wrote about this concern for one and blindness for another in a Community Voices piece. You can read it here.

Remember, readers, that a Spotty™ is awarded to the author of a letter to the editor or an opinion piece that I wish I had written myself. The name of the award is taken as a small reminder of my former online nom de plume.

Michael Jugovich, a St. Louis County Commissioner, wrote a response to the letter. You can see my treatment of that here.

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