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Letter to the editor: Nolan is selling out our waters, and Metsa is backing him up

From Carla Arneson, Ely

Fast-tracking mining projects accomplish one thing: mining corporations have a better chance to hide the truth from the public. The companies, not the permitting process, are opaque and need transparency. Instead we have the predictability of corporate representatives saying anything to get their projects permitted. Although I must say a legislator comparing sulfide mining pollution to another industry’s pollution (agriculture) is certainly a novel approach. According to Representative Metsa, bring on sulfide mining pollution; just look upon the contamination as “challenges.”

We all listened to PolyMet spokespeople tell us repeatedly that its NorthMet draft environmental impact statement would prove to us that NorthMet is a safe project and our waters will not be harmed. As citizens we needed time to read the DEIS, to find and research its inadequacies, or we would not have been able to write the scientifically supported comments that refuted this fallacy. Even then, our agencies and legislators did not listen to us. If not for federal agencies, namely the Environmental Protection Agency, PolyMet’s failure of a project would have been permitted by Minnesota.

What was the most obvious thing missing in the PolyMet/NorthMet DEIS? Hydrology! In other words, WATER. Water studies. Water protection. A scientist once told me that you look for what is missing in an EIS because that is where the problem is; it is what makes this project unfeasible.

PolyMet basically flunked its DEIS. So how does PolyMet claim it will protect our waters now? Answer: With at least 500 years of water treatment, according to the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Anyone who believes the feasibility of such a proposal is not living in the real world. The United States has not even been around for 250 years.

Whether or not 83percent of people support mining on the Iron Range is not the issue. Sulfide mining is not being done on the Range, as much as the mining industry would like to make that connection. One of the industry’s favorite strategies is, “say it often enough and people will believe it.” The Duluth Complex is not the Iron Range, it is the lake district of the Arrowhead and the people of Minnesota do not want to

replace it with a sulfide-mining district. Did anyone administering the Global Strategy Group poll ask voters that question?

The issue is protecting our waters from whatever threatens them. Minnesota is not first and foremost a mining state. Minnesota is known as a lake state; the “Land of 10,000 Lakes;” the “Land of Sky Blue Waters.”

Yet the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Land and Minerals Division, does not protect Minnesota’s waters. If it did, we would not have projects across the Iron Range, primarily taconite mines, that cannot meet standards and are polluting our waters year after year.

The strategic and critical minerals argument is mining propaganda. Minnesota’s waters are far more strategic and critical, and they will only become more so with climate change. The United States has generally been, and continues to be, one of the top five copper producers in the world. It is also one of the leading exporters of copper and copper scrap, primarily to China, eliciting no outcry of protest from our legislators who are so concerned with “strategic” minerals. Legislators who also conveniently neglect to mention that Glencore would be selling PolyMet’s metals on the open market. Such misleading rhetoric is typical of those who want to see sulfide mining in Minnesota, no matter what the cost to the rest of us.

It is nonsense to imply that regulations force a mining company to destroy clean water anywhere in the world; a company has the choice to mine to best practices or mine to poor regulations. What does it say about mining companies that choose to mine to poor regulations? They care more about profit than people? Or they cannot control their pollution? We are naïve at best if we believe these same companies will do it differently in Minnesota. They will try to get away with whatever they can, especially when our regulations are not being enforced by our agencies. Variances, expired permits, permits without standards, and consent decrees are not enforcement. They make our water standards meaningless.

Make no mistake, if PolyMet is permitted, the standards are set for the multiple, multi-national mining corporations waiting in the wings. Any company that claims it can meet the standards for sulfide mining would get its permit. After all, PolyMet is telling us it can treat polluted water ‘a minimum of” 500 years. If our agencies and politicians believe that, they will believe anything.