Reader’s view: Study shows PolyMet can safely mine copper

Duluth News Tribune
March 30, 2009

After reading Bob Tammen's March 6 commentary, "Failure to regulate mining industry is disastrous," I felt the need to respond.

PolyMet Mining is a Canadian corporation but is made up of many Minnesotans. Cleveland Cliffs, one of the world's largest mining companies, owns a large share in PolyMet. Copper mining has been explored on the Iron Range for a number of years. PolyMet has already spent more than five years studying the feasibility of mining copper and nickel on the Iron Range.

PolyMet is not alone. Duluth Metals and Franconia Minerals also are looking at mining copper on the Iron Range. PolyMet is the furthest along and has spent the most money in the area.

PolyMet is nearing the end of a three-year environmental-impact study conducted by numerous federal, state and local agencies.

I understand the environmental concerns of some. However, House Bill 916 is a knee-jerk reaction to PolyMet's near completion of its environmental-impact study. The current process is extremely arduous. The legislation proposed does nothing for regulating mining – it simply outlaws it.

If the environmental impact study shows that PolyMet can safely mine copper and other metals, then the firm should be allowed to mine. I think the comprehensive study conducted on this proposed project should be considered much more credible than information Tammen and the Twin Cities' legislators who authored House Bill 916 apparently found using Google.

The fact Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Jim Oberstar both support the PolyMet project should be very telling. The fact is PolyMet has done everything right and will not get permits unless it can prove it can safely mine.

Only extremists and misinformed people are against the safe extraction of minerals. House Bill 916 would be disastrous for all of northern Minnesota.

Jason Loos

Moorhead, Minn.



Hibbing Daily Tribune
March 29, 2009

Dear Editor,

I'm writing in response to the recent editorial and article raising questions about the PolyMet project in Hoyt Lakes.  I am a local business owner who lives and works in Northeastern Minnesota. I grew up living in, hunting in and fishing in what is now referred to as the "Boundary Waters"(to me it was home). To be a true environmentalist one must consider that the health and welfare of people, and their environment, is directly linked to the successful utilization and stewardship of resources. This requires using substantive information to make informed decisions. I find it informative that many "environmental groups" resort to fear-mongering rather than fact.

WaterLegacy has raised concerns about the proposed PolyMet project based on a preliminary, internal draft of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – a draft designed specifically to allow our regulatory agencies the opportunity to review it and make substantive changes before the final draft EIS is released to the public for comment.

This is NOT an EIS developed for public comment-something WaterLegacy must clearly understand. However, the group ignores this fact and cynically attempts to generate fear based on incomplete information about a project that WaterLegacy appears determined to oppose-regardless of the facts.

When a final draft EIS is released, public comments will be used to improve the document prior to making a decision on the EIS, which will inform and improve the subsequent permitting process.  

The comment made by Paul Danicic, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters is misleading.  Mr. Danicic  stated, "If PolyMet gets its permit, other mining operations could be permitted under the same terms." This statement is not true.  Each project is unique and will have to undergo the same scrutiny as PolyMet.  Each company is required to go through an environmental review process and have its specific environment impacts assessed. To receive permits to operate, the companies must meet strict state and federal laws to protect human health and the environment.

I believe that some environmental groups, like the WaterLegacy and the Friends of the Boundary Waters, are ignoring the facts and resorting to scare tactics to undermine our state and federal governments' stringent environmental review and permitting process. If PolyMet or any other company cannot meet our strict environmental standards, they won't be allowed to operate. WaterLegacy and Friends of the Boundary Waters would know this – but they don't appear to like it. It seems they would prefer that decisions be made based on opinion and emotion rather than the facts-and I don't believe the facts will support their positions.

Minnesota has a comprehensive environmental review and permitting process – one of the most stringent in the nation. PolyMet has invested four years and more than $20 million so far to comply with the process on the books. I say we let that process run its course – and let the facts speak for themselves.


Bill Whiteside

Reader’s view: Safeguards in place already for non-ferrous mining

Duluth News Tribune
March 29, 2009

Minnesota Power wants to express its concern about the impact of SF 845/HF916 on the state's ability to launch the non-ferrous mining industry (Our View: "Back off, St. Paul: Bill threatens project that would bring much-needed jobs to Range," March 1).

Considerable environmental and economic planning, investment, due diligence, communication and analysis have been done for the proposed PolyMet project. Minnesota does not need to erect an unnecessary hurdle for non-ferrous mining via this legislation. The state has an existing regu-latory framework to properly develop and supervise non-ferrous mining projects for the economic and environmental benefit of citizens.

Some parties who oppose non-ferrous mining appear to claim it is virtually impossible to do it responsibly anywhere, largely based on experience from decades ago with projects operated at lower environmental standards and with inferior technology. The current facts around non-ferrous development, as posted at miningminnesota.com, along with the presence of the state's strong environmental protection infrastructure, should instill confidence that this project will have the necessary regulatory oversight.

There is no need for a false "either/or" policy choice between our environmental protection and high-quality employment. Minnesota can become a global environmental leader by showing how a project like PolyMet can be done in an environmentally appropriate way, while producing many metal products needed to support a move toward greater use of greener technologies, such as wind turbines. Minnesota could produce strategic resources such as copper, nickel, and cobalt rather than having these metals supplied by other countries with minimal environmental standards.

Minnesota has shown it can support industry while exercising the strict environmental oversight that is our way of life. There is no need for legislation to provide the oversight already evidenced by Minnesota's high standards and the reputation it has earned nationally.



The writer is vice president for regulatory and legislative affairs at Minnesota Power.

Non-ferrous assurances in state rules

Mesabi Daily News
By Rep. David Dill
March 28, 2009

Environmental groups were involved in 1993 rulemaking

ST. PAUL – Precious metal mining projects in Northeastern Minnesota have been a topic of discussion at the State Capitol this legislative session. The introduction of legislation that would effectively make it impossible to develop and operate a non-ferrous mine was introduced and to date has not received a hearing.

The legislation is being promoted by anti-mining folks and authored by metro area legislators as a way to assure that when the mining ends that the taxpayers are not stuck with the clean-up bill. I certainly agree that taxpayers should not be stuck with clean-up costs like they have been for the cost of polluting the Mississippi River. Three core principles should guide our thoughts with regard to the use of Minnesota's natural resources.

1. Minnesota needs to utilize its natural resources such as wood and minerals.

2. Harvesting, extraction and processing need to be accomplished using best management practices and the best technologies.

3. All work must be done in a way that protects the environment for future generations.

An Environmental Impact Statement for the PolyMet proposal will be released by DNR to the public sometime this year. Many are anxious to review the EIS and understand how the project's proposer will accomplish important management and operational practices, Minnesota Rule 6132.1200.

Forms of assurance

Financial assurances are currently required by Minnesota rule for non-ferrous mining operations and are specified in a permit to mine. The rules that govern financial assurance were promulgated in 1993.

The participants in the scoping and rulemaking process were environmental groups, industry, the public and the state. The criteria for assurance are:

1. Sufficient funds to cover the costs.

2. Available and made payable to the Commissioner of the DNR.

3. Fully valid and binding under state and federal law.

4. Not dischargeable through bankruptcy.

5. Under terms and conditions approved by the Commissioner of DNR, financial assurance rules are in place to protect taxpayers from future corrective action during a mine's operation and after a mine closes, Minnesota Rule 6132.1200, subp 5.

New permit to mine applications and substantialchange amendment applications are noticed to the public in a qualified newspaper in the local area of the proposed operation. The notice repeats four times and then a 30-day public comment begins, MN Rule 6132.4900.

If there are objections to a proposed mining operation, the public may bring those forth and if the Commissioner of DNR determines that the objections meet specific criteria, a hearing is conducted, MN Rule 6132.4000.

Contested case hearings procedures are provided for in MN Rule 6132.5000

Amount of Financial Assurance

The state shall hire a qualified third party to consult and assist with determining both the amount and form of financial assurance for contingency and corrective action. The cost of the third party consultation is paid by the project proposer.

Determination of the amount of financial assurances and the types of financial instruments posted by the proposer rests with the DNR Commissioner. As a matter of practice, other agencies affected by the financial assurance are consulted during the process of determining the amounts and instruments required, specifically the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Prohibited Forms of Financial Assurance

Any instrument of financial assurance is excluded if it cannot meet the criteria provided for in Minnesota rule 6132.1200, subp 5.

Perpetual Active Water Treatment

A permit to mine would require the permittee to close the mine in such a way that it is stable, free of hazards, minimizes hydrologic impact and release of substances, and is maintenance free, MN Rule 6132.3200.

If closure cannot be achieved without ongoing maintenance, then the permittee would not be released from the permit to mine or from the financial assurance obligations, MN Rule 6132.3200.

Revaluation of Project and Assurances

Minnesota rule requires annual revaluation of the amount of financial assurance, MN Rule 6132. 1200 and 1300, or at any point that the permittee is not in compliance with their permit to mine, MN Rule 6132.3100.

Release of Financial Assurances

Release of financial assurances is determined by the Commissioner of DNR. The decision to release is based on whether or not the area requested for release complies with the terms and conditions of the permit to mine.

If closure cannot be achieved without continued maintenance, then the permittee would not be released from the terms and conditions of the permit to mine or the financial assurance, MN Rule 6132.3200


MN Rule 6132.4100 provides that at the discretion of the Commissioner of DNR a variance to the permit to mine may be issued. A variance request must show: A) how the alternative measure proposed is equivalent to or superior to that prescribed in the rules; and B) how strict compliance with the rule will impose an undue burden.

If a variance to the permit to mine would create a substantial change, the request for variance would be noticed to the public and be open to public comment, MN Rule 6132.4100, subp 2, a.

Civil Penalty

The Commissioner of DNR has authority to set the amount of a civil penalty using consideration of the severity of a violation, the need to deter future violations or recoup gains resulting from the violation, MN Rule 6132.5100.

It is my hope that these references of Minnesota Rule will help with understanding how a non-ferrous mining project is permitted, governed and how financial safeguards are established.

I welcome your thoughts on the proposed projects and encourage each of you to participate in the upcoming public process pertaining to the PolyMet.

David Dill is the DFL state representative of House District 6A.

Reader’s view: Mining can coexist with the environment

Duluth News Tribune
March 28, 2009

The March 6 letter, "Back off, worldwide investors," indicated hope that mining jobs come to Northeastern Minnesota in a responsible way.

The contention over mining in the northeastern part of the state has caused Minnesotans to debate two important issues: environmental protection and economic stimulus. An important point being missed is that being environmentally conscious and mining resources are not mutually exclusive.

Currently, these metals are mined in places like China and Russia, countries with lax environmental oversight. Minnesota, on the other hand, has some of the strictest environmental standards in the country. By mining here we reduce the enormous impact caused when some of those countries tear apart the Earth in search of the same resources. We can do it here and in a more ecologically sound way.

Mining in Minnesota creates jobs and spurs growth for an area that severely needs it, and at a time when the entire economy is struggling. Let's take advantage of this opportunity to create immediate, long-term, environmentally safe jobs for Minnesotans.

Mining and the environment have had a strained relationship in the past, but technologies and processes have improved. Combine that with the economic boost these mines would bring, and officials and the community need to understand the benefits these mines offer our state.

Mining can be done safely in Minnesota. As the letter writer suggested, ask the regulators.

Randy Babiracki




Reader’s view: It’s the newspaper’s job to educate readers on PolyMet

Duluth News Tribune
March 22, 2009

I urge the News Tribune's editors to educate subscribers with the truth about these bills that would prevent construction of the PolyMet facility at the cost of our environment.

The newspaper is in position to bring clarification to uncertainty. It could please tell its readers the PolyMet project would help the environmental cause worldwide. The company proposes to use clean technology to replace producers worldwide that use antiquated processes that are injurious to the worldwide cause for clean air.

PolyMet deserves to be supported as a steward with worldwide concern for all of the Earth.

Pete Gemuenden


Reader’s View: Laws already in place to protect environment from copper mining

Duluth News Tribune
March 19, 2009

I am a representative of approximately 750 working men and woman in the plumbing and pipe fitting industry in northern Minnesota. We feel strongly that the laws that we currently have in the state are doing a great job at helping to protect the planet, and by singling out one specific project like PolyMet and putting into play some kind of new legislation that stops or impedes work happening in the state is very irresponsible.

The environmental impact statement being done shows the project to be feasible and safe. I would encourage our state representatives and congressional leaders to vote "no" on new regulations.

I agree with environmentalists that we need to work together to keep our state safe and clean, but we also believe the current regulations cover that need.

With the economy in such turmoil, I feel impelled to ask the News Tribune to please encourage the public to let representatives know they don't want more regulations that harm industry coming to our state. The state of Minnesota needs this project and so do the working men and women of Minnesota.



The writer is business manager for Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 11.



Pawlenty: Mining project should move forward

Duluth News Tribune
March 18, 2009

Gov. Tim Pawlenty addresses a Hermantown Chamber of Commerce forum at Duluth International Airport on Tuesday morning. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

Gov. Tim Pawlenty repeated his support for Minnesota's existing environmental laws regulating sulfide mining Tuesday at a Hermantown Chamber of Commerce forum.

"That's a hopeful project," Pawlenty said of Polymet, an Iron Range copper and precious metals mining concern, in response to a question asking if the project was being held up by proposed legislation to tighten environmental regulations.

"I think the current structure and laws allow us to [protect the environment]," he said. "The proposed additional laws, I don't think it's necessary."

Pawlenty spoke to dozens of area business leaders at the Duluth International Airport, his first stop on a three-city tour in Northeastern Minnesota. He peppered his half-hour of prepared remarks with jokes that offered some levity alongside grim state budget deficit news. In one, he told of a patron who walked into a bar, ordered seven shots of whiskey, upped the request to seven doubles, "and started slamming them down, one after the other," he said.

When the bartender asked what the rush was, the patron answered, "you'd be in a hurry, too, if you've got what I've got," Pawlenty said. "The bartender asked, ‘What have you got?' and the patron answered, ‘I've got a buck twenty-five.' "

Pawlenty used the anecdote to highlight his main message: that in a time of dwindling tax revenues, Minnesotans have to start cutting back. In a time where "stories of greed, of people trying to defy the laws of gravity, financially" dominate the headlines, Pawlenty said, "we need to live within our means."

Three key areas he said the state must focus on are creating jobs, reforming the health-care system and holding the line on taxes.

Pawlenty has proposed cutting the state's $34 billion two-year budget by about 2.2 percent, using "priority-based budgeting" to trim some programs while sparing others. He chided DFL leaders for proposing across-the-board cuts and tax increases for higher-income residents.

Many business leaders who attended the forum were pleased to hear Pawlenty speak about the need to create jobs.

"The governor knows that the way to move out of a recession is to work our way out of it," said Hermantown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mike Lundstrom, who organized the event.

He said that businesses and government in Hermantown have been doing "OK" in the current economic downturn, though it's important to recognize that families and individuals are certainly feeling the economic pinch. Lundstrom supported Pawlenty's idea to use one-time federal stimulus money and payments from the 1998 tobacco settlement fund to help boost Minnesota's economy in the short term.

Duluth Airport Authority Board of Directors President Nancy Norr appreciated Pawlenty's remarks about "supporting growing revenues for our state," she said.

"We can talk about cuts and cuts and cuts," Norr said. "But what are we doing to grow?"

Norr asked the governor if he would support a bonding bill this session. The airport is seeking $4.9 million in state bonding for a new terminal. Pawlenty answered that he would support a "targeted" bonding bill that wasn't "porky; one that's focused on construction-ready projects."

After the Hermantown stop, Pawlenty traveled to Hibbing and then Grand Rapids before returning to the Capitol for an afternoon news conference on the state's budget.

Mayor’s view: Mining legislation would strangle needed Iron Range development

Duluth News Tribune
March 17, 2009

By: Marlene Pospeck, Mayor of Hoyt Lakes

The economic downturn is severe with thousands of jobs lost. Yet, in Minnesota, we have the opportunity to create jobs by bringing new mining projects to fruition.

However, the authors of legislation in St. Paul seem to want to curtail or actually put an end to Minnesota's mining industry. Their concerns about Northeastern Minnesota's environment are misplaced. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources states their language would, in effect, make it virtually impossible to permit any nonferrous mining project.

We who live in Minnesota's mining region know there are common-sense tradeoffs between a safe, healthy environment and the ability to work at living-wage jobs. We've been mining iron ore here for more than 100 years with our environment remaining healthy enough to attract thousands of folks from the Twin Cities every summer to pursue outdoor activities. We remain very careful custodians of water and woods because, in addition to mining, we encourage a thriving tourism industry.

Besides creating jobs and a healthy economy for Northeastern Minnesota, our mining industry helps the entire state. In addition to the school revenue already being produced by taconite plants, the proposed nonferrous mines would bring more than $1 billion into the School Trust Fund for school districts all across Minnesota.

In 2007, Minnesota's mining industry paid $97 million in royalties and occupation taxes and more than $90 million in production taxes that go to cities, schools and counties. Non-ferrous mining would add tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues each year.

Minnesota regulatory agencies already have all the authority necessary in statutes and rules to assure air and water quality and financial responsibility. There are comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement and permit processes in place with state, federal, tribal and public reviews mandated. The current rules were put in place in the early 1990s after many years of study and with input from all groups, including environmental groups. We simply need to have confidence in the safeguards already in place through the legislative process instead of introducing onerous new regulations that would strangle economic development.

By mining copper, nickel and other precious metals in Minnesota, using 21st century technology, we will be helping to reduce the global carbon footprint. About 80 percent of global copper is still produced via smelters. Projects currently proposed here would not.

Instead of forcing production in countries with minimal environmental regulation, Minnesota could produce high-demand strategic resources such as copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals, using sound environmental practices.

I hope Minnesota legislators carefully consider the adverse ramifications for Northeastern Minnesota and the entire state if the proposed legislation is passed. I say to them: Please let common sense prevail and vote down this ill-considered legislation.

Pawlenty says no extra environmental rules needed at PolyMet

Duluth News Tribune
March 17, 2009

Gov. Tim Pawlenty repeated his support today for existing laws regulating precious-metals mining, saying no extra measures are needed to ensure environmental safety at the proposed PolyMet project on the Iron Range.

"That's a hopeful project," Pawlenty said at a Hermantown Area Chamber of Commerce forum in response to a question. The company has proposed mining copper and other precious metals at the site of the former LTV taconite plant near Hoyt Lakes.

Pawlenty was asked whether he supports proposed legislation requiring more stringent environmental regulations for such developments.

"I think the current structure and laws allow us to [protect the environment]," Pawlenty said. "The proposed additional laws–I don't think it's necessary."

Critics of the PolyMet project have alleged that it would lead to long-term water and other pollution problems stemming from sulfur byproducts of the mining and refining process. PolyMet backers maintain that the industry will be able to contain and manage any pollution.

Pawlenty spoke at the Duluth International Airport forum to dozens of area business leaders, emphasizing the need to create jobs in Minnesota, reform the state's health-care system and hold the line on taxes.

He said the stories behind the country's economic troubles were "stories of greed, of people trying to defy the laws of gravity, financially."

"There are certain rules we need to follow," Pawlenty said. "One of those being that we need to live within our means."

Pawlenty made the stop in Hermantown as part of a northeastern Minnesota chamber of commerce tour. Later today he travels to Hibbing and then to Grand Rapids before returning to the Capitol for an afternoon news conference on the state's budget.