You must be made of copper and tellurium: the Polymet Mine Proposal

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Featured image is from the Star Tribune. I own no rights to it. 

In January, the U.S. Forest Service signed off on a proposed land swap with PolyMet Mining. The deal exchanges 6,650 acres of private land from Polymet to become part of the Superior National Forest in Duluth, Minnesota with federal land of the same amount that covers the mineral deposit PolyMet already controls.

What seems like a simple exchange has been met with an uproar from Minnesota citizens.

This problem is similar to that of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many are afraid of what a copper and nickel mine could do to their environment.

Some are worried that a successful mine would attract other mines to the area and because the National Forest Service seems to be on board with the mines, many are left wondering if they have Duluth’s best interests at heart.

Four lawsuits have already been filed that could potentially delay the PolyMet copper-nickel mining project proposed for northeastern Minnesota. And several more are expected if the state eventually grants the mine the permits it needs to begin construction.

The suits are a key tool for environmental groups trying to block the controversial project.

The plaintiffs, include big organizations like Sierra Club and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. Small groups have also banded together, the Save Lake Superior Association and Save our Sky Blue Waters, along with the Duluth chapter of the Izaak Walton League filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s recent approval the land exchange.

Another suit from the Center for Biological Diversity challenges a “biological opinion” issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and contends the mine would destroy a habitat for threatened lynx and wolves.

Besides the wildlife issues the mine would cause, it could also potentially have lethal impacts to the St. Louis River Watershed and Lake Superior.

PolyMet is a novice company with very few years of experience in the mining business. One slip-up could cause a catastrophe for both water and wildlife. They don’t have a track record which means it’s hard for Duluth residents to trust this large company.

On top of that, they are backed by a Swiss company, Glencore. The Chairman of the Glencore board of directors is former BP CEO Tony Hayward, the man who was in charge when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused the largest oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico. He was made infamous for saying how he would “like his life back” while the water was being polluted and whole communities were being devastated by the spill. Probably not the best person to go to for environmental health.

Yes, so they would hurt the environment by building and operating this mine. But it would also provide jobs for over 360 people and create over 600 indirect jobs as well as generate an estimated $515 million annually for St. Louis County.

PolyMet has made an environmental commitment on their website:

“Our mine and processing facilities are designed to comply with all applicable state and federal standards to protect Minnesota’s water, air and other natural resources. These are some of the strictest standards in the country. We also will clean up legacy water issues left from former taconite mining and processing operations on the property.”

You can read their environmental review here.

With the lawsuits against them, it seems that PolyMet will have a hard time getting this project started at least for a year or so. But, as we’ve seen with the Dakota Access Pipeline, the current administration has no agenda for the environment.

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