21st Century Minerals Fund bill laid over

By Danielle Cabot, Mesabi Daily News
February 28, 2007

ST. PAUL – A bill to replenish the 21st Century Minerals Fund was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus development package in the Senate Economic Development Budget Division on Wednesday. The committee, chaired by Sen. David Tomassoni, DFl-Chisholm, also modified a larger insurance housekeeping bill to include a 13-week extension of Ainsworth unemployment benefits, and passed that bill on to the Senate floor.

Tomassoni amended the minerals fund bill to appropriate $45 million rather than $56 million as introduced, acknowledging an $11 million allocation passed last year for the Minnesota Steel & Iron project. The money would fill a hole left by a unallotment of about $50 million in 2003 budget-balancing measures by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Ernie Layman, director of Franconia Minerals, said that a replenished fund would attract non-ferrous business investment to the state like his own company and PolyMet….

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2 important questions: 1 for Green, 1 for Blue of alliance

Editorial, Mesabi Daily News
February 26th, 2007

Wednesday night there will be a meeting at the Mesabi Range Community College in Virginia sponsored by the Blue-Green Alliance of Minnesota, which is a partnership of the Steelworkers and the environmental Sierra Club.

The meeting’s focus will be on the super hyped-up issue of global warming, on cutting emissions and on new jobs that supposedly will be created regionally to help the environment….

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About Mining Minnesota

MiningMinnesota is an initiative driven by a diverse coalition of organizations, companies and individuals committed to sustainable and environmentally responsible non-ferrous (non-iron) mining development in Minnesota. MiningMinnesota works with local citizens, businesses and other organizations to bring growth and job creation to the state through responsible development of natural resources. Now is the time for Minnesota to develop this new industry!

Economic development

The organizations affiliated with MiningMinnesota are committed to using innovative mining practices to improve the economies of northeastern Minnesota communities. Non-ferrous, modern mining offers significant, sustainable economic opportunities, such as: Ø Hundreds of high-paying jobsØ Hundreds of ancillary, "spin off" jobsØ Tax revenue for state and local governmentsØ Community revitalization Environmental responsibilityToday, people accept the fact that the government sets environmental standards for a variety of industries, including mining. New, innovative mining practices help ensure that both extraction and processing are environmentally responsible. These include: Ø Processing without smeltersØ Progressive reclamation of mine landsØ Limited surface impacts

Uses modern technologyLike all global industries, mining has undergone dramatic changes in recent years, bringing it firmly into the world of 21st century high technology. New, modern mining operations can demonstrate good stewardship of natural resources by using the latest technology to minimize disturbance and reclaim the land following operations. Meets global supply and demandThe state of Minnesota estimates that the more than 4 billion tons of untapped non-ferrous ore (copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum, palladium and gold) located in the state are perhaps the largest deposits of base and precious metals in the United States. These deposits were discovered in the 1950s and 1960s; however, due largely to lack of a viable processing technology to responsibly treat these ores, the saleable products could not be produced. Works within Minnesota's rigorous environmental regulationsMinnesota has long been a national leader in developing strict, yet sensible, regulatory processes for the development of its natural resources. The members of MiningMinnesota fully support these regulations, and their proposed projects will meet or exceed all standards, using best mining and reclamation practices coupled with the world's cleanest processing technologies. To that end, MiningMinnesota encourages legislators and other Minnesotans to understand that:Ø No new restrictive regulations are necessaryØ Proposed restrictions send a negative message about Minnesota as a place to invest in responsible mining Visit us onlineFor more information about MiningMinnesota and current projects, visit www.miningminnesota.com.

Polymet project draws friends and foes

By Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
February 8, 2007

About 100 supporters and critics of a proposed copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota got together in Duluth last night to talk about the project. Polymet Mining Company is working on detailed studies about possible environmental impacts. They've got a long way to go, to convince some people the mine is a good idea.

Duluth, Minn. – The mine would be built at the old LTV taconite mine near Babbitt. Fourteen hundred people lost their jobs when the mine closed in 2001.

Polymet officials are excited about the money they can save by using the railroad, the electric lines and natural gas pipes, and some of the buildings already on hand.

But for a lot of people in northeastern Minnesota, iron ore mining is one thing, and mining for precious metals is something else entirely.

The main concern is acid drainage. The minerals Polymet wants to extract — copper, nickel, platinum, gold — are found in sulfide rock. When it's exposed to air and water, sulfide rock can produce sulfuric acid, which can drain into nearby lakes and rivers.

"The company comes in and claims that it will do no harm," says Leonard Anderson. "They're going to provide all these jobs and do no harm."

Anderson is a retired science teacher and long-time environmental activist. He reminded the crowd about mines in the western US and in Flambeau, Wisconsin, that have heavily polluted nearby waterways. He says the Polymet Company has no track record, and he worries it will follow an all-too-familiar pattern.

"They'll take out the valuable ore from the ground, and make a tidy profit," Anderson continues. "And about the time payday really rolls around for us, about the time we find that there's groundwater contamination, some of the really tough problems to solve, they declare bankruptcy. And then the big bills, these multi-million dollars bills, are left to the taxpayers."

But that's all in the past, according to Don Hunter, project general manager for Polymet.

"Yes, it's a fact that places like the Butte mine in Montana are a disaster," he says. "But that was a disaster created decades ago, and I think it would be fair to say the mining industry has learned significantly from that. I don't claim we're perfect by any means, but the improvements that have been made over that period of time are quantum step improvements."

Not only that, but Hunter says the rock at the Polymet mine has far less sulfide content than most existing mines. He says it's only because Polymet plans to use advanced technologies that they can mine it profitably.

The meeting was organized by the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League. Unlike some other environmental organizations, the Ikes have not taken a position on the proposed Polymet mine.

But Leonard Anderson, an Ikes member, is promoting legislation for Minnesota similar to a Wisconsin law that requires metals mining companies to point to successful mines elsewhere that have operated without harming the environment.

"Prove that it can be done without harm," he says. "Prove that you've got an example somewhere of this exact process, this exact specifications, that has done no harm. Then we can talk permit."

But that idea doesn't make sense to Polymet's Don Hunter. He says because every ore body is different, and because technology is always advancing, it would be impossible to find an identical mine.

And Hunter says people need the metals the mine would produce, for plumbing pipes, hybrid cars, and even life-saving medical procedures.

"And I'd like to think we could produce them here, where at least we have a chance of producing them in an environmentally responsible way, which is more than you can say of some of the production in Asia at the moment," says Hunter.

People at the meeting said it was good to be able to hear both sides. But many of them still have questions. Peter Yurista quotes President Reagan's admonition: "trust, but verify."

"As public citizens, we ourselves need to verify that what is said — gets done," he says.

And Yurista says he'll be watching.