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Mining

PolyMet's project proposes 20 years of mining for 500 years of pollution. 

Click here to go to polymetproblems.com to learn about the known issues with PolyMet's proposal.

Media Coverage:

Read the Star Tribune news article entitled "Minnesota Poll: Support slipping for PolyMet project" written by Corey Mitchell on September 20, 2014.

Read the Pioneer Press news article entitled "PolyMet mine: Environmental groups say opposition overwhelming" written by Doug Belden on September 15, 2014.

Read the Mining Truth article entitled "Of 50,000+ Public Comments, 98 Percent Oppose PolyMet" dated September 15, 2014.

Read the MinnPost news article entitled "Review of PolyMet Mining project finds treatment, and costs, lasting centuries" written by Ron Meador on December 10, 2013.

Read the Star Tribune news article entitled "State releases long-awaited impact statement for PolyMet mine, opens public comment period" written by Josephine Marcotty on December 7, 2013.

Read the Star Tribune news article entitled "PolyMet mine report has a giant hole in it" written by Lee Schafer on December 7, 2013.

Read the Duluth News Tribune news article entitled "Minnesota report addresses water-quality concerns from proposed copper-nickel mine" written by John Myers on December 6, 2013.

Read the Star Tribune news article entitled "Minnesota officials urge 'hard look' at new environmental review for proposed PolyMet mine" written by Steve Karnowski on December 6, 2013.

Read the MPR news article entitled "PolyMet's copper-nickel mine rekindles decades-old environmental debate" written by Dan Kraker on December 5, 2013.

Read the MPR news article entitled "PolyMet copper-nickel mine: Economic opportunity or too environmentally risky?" written by Elizabeth Dunbar and Dan Kraker on December 2, 2013.


Learn More About MiningTruth.org!

MCEA is excited to announce our new partnership with Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Conservation Minnesota on a new online resource regarding sulfide mining in Minnesota: www.MiningTruth.org. Sulfide mining in Minnesota would affect many of our treasured places, including Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters. It’s too important of an issue to be uninformed. Please visit the website to learn more, take the pledge, and tell your friends.

Sulfide mining has never been done in Minnesota. This is not your Grandfather’s taconite mine. It produces toxic waste rock that could irreversibly damage Minnesota’s fragile lakes, rivers and natural resources. It has both economic benefits and drawbacks. Do you believe that sulfide mining has a place in Minnesota?  

Minnesota is a mining state. The iron ore mines of Northern Minnesota built communities and provided good paying jobs during the boom times. Mining has devastated those communities during bad times and damaged the natural environment there with the open pits and disposal of tailings, most famously when Reserve Mining Co. dumped its tailings into Lake Superior.

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy understands mining's place in Minnesota and does not oppose it. However, we do expect all mining, whether for taconite or copper-nickel, to be done through environmentally safe and modern mining techniques that do not leave the state's taxpayers cleaning up a mess.

Overview of Minnesota Mining Issues

Although Minnesota has a long history of iron ore mining, sulfide mining for copper, nickel, and precious metals has never been attempted.  With increased demand from China and India, however, prices for these commodities are projected to remain high, and that is making Minnesota’s relatively low-grade sulfide ores economically attractive.

Sulfide mining, unfortunately, poses several significant environmental risks. The most significant one is the threat to water quality.  When sulfide ores are exposed to air and water, the result is sulfuric acid, which causes the leaching of potentially toxic heavy metals and the release of sulfates that contribute to the methylation of mercury.  Methylmercury is the form that bioaccumulates in fish, and therefore poses a direct threat to human health and other wildlife.

If acid mine drainage and sulfate contamination are not properly controlled at these mines, the damage to fish and wildlife, and ultimately to human health and safety, in the Lake Superior watershed will likely be irreversible.  To protect water quality, then, there has to be assurance that the mine operators can and will meet all applicable water quality standards, both during mine operation and indefinitely after mine closure.

Minnesota’s citizens and all those with a stake in the preservation of the Lake Superior watershed do not have that assurance today.  The project proposers acknowledge that sulfide mining may pose water quality risks, but they have not yet come up with or committed to the kind of large-scale active water treatment that will likely be required.  The industry’s record on water quality is abysmal.  Hundreds of hardrock mines in the American West have been abandoned, leaving behind mine pit lakes, waste rock piles, and tailings basins that have contaminated hundreds of miles of rivers and streams.  The EPA estimates the total clean-up cost exceeds $50 billion.  The hardrock mining industry has been the #1 source of toxic waste in this country ever since the annual Toxics Release Inventory was established.

The environmental risks are not limited to water quality, however.  These mines will result in the loss of thousands of acres of protected wetlands, with no adequate wetland restoration and replacement plans yet offered.  Many of the contaminants from the ore processing plants will be pumped to tailings basins, with large earthen dams that will require continual monitoring and maintenance to remain stable.  These operations require enormous amounts of electrical power to operate, with the only available sources being GHG-emitting coal-fired power plants.  And, the mining areas selected are critical habitat for at least one endangered species, the Canada lynx.

The Minnesota sulfide mining project that is nearest to actual operation is the PolyMet NorthMet operation in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.  PolyMet is proposing 1,728 acre open pit mine with 32,000 tons of ore mined daily.  Ninety-nine percent of that ore will be stockpiled as waste rock.

PolyMet, along, with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), have released a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). Their original DEIS, earned an EU-3 (Environmentally Unsatisfactory—Inadequate) rating from EPA—the lowest possible rating. You can find and read EPA's and MCEA's comments on Polyment's first draft here. As a result, PolyMet is redoing their proposal. 

Watch this video (also available here) by Tom Powers to learn more about the costs and economic benefits of mining:

 

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Recent News

December 2013: PolyMet's Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) was released.

August 2012: The PolyMet draft supplemental EIS has now been postponed until early 2013.

February 16: PolyMet delays release of draft supplemental EIS until fall 2012

PolyMet, the company behind what may be the first sulfide mine in Minnesota, announced this month that its Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement would not be ready until fall 2012. Previously, PolyMet had stated that it would have the document ready in the second quarter of 2012.

This is not PolyMet's first attempt at an EIS. The first draft was released in 2010 and given the lowest possible rating of "inadequate" by the EPA. The EPA criticized the first draft EIS for, among other things, failing to adequately investigate and mitigate potential effects on surface water. 

Potential effects of the mine on local ground and surface water include discharge of sulfates, which affect wild rice production as well as mercury in fish, heavy metals and acid mine drainage.

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
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