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Reader’s view: Years of testing supports PolyMet project

Duluth News Tribune
January 26, 2010

The Dec. 30 letter, "PolyMet using state's waters as testing ground," included two specifics that need clarification because the writer inaccurately represented facts.

First, the waters of Northeastern Minnesota will not be used as a testing ground for PolyMet's unproven methods. On the contrary. PolyMet's proposed mining and processing of nonferrous minerals has been tested and reviewed for several years by both the company and regulatory agencies. Like any project in any industry, in order to receive permits, PolyMet needs to demonstrate it will meet or exceed Minnesota's stringent environmental air- and water-quality standards. I encourage everyone to read the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' recently published environmental impact study on PolyMet.

Second, with regards to taxes, the PolyMet project is cost-effective and will not use any taxpayer dollars. The charge that Minnesota residents will have to pay for nonferrous mining is just plain false. Minnesota has very specific reclamation policies and financial assurance requirements in place for nonferrous mining that assign all costs to the companies, protecting taxpayers from any reclamation costs.

The true fact is that the PolyMet project will greatly benefit Northeastern Minnesota and our entire state economically by adding jobs and an influx of financial support throughout the region.

Overall, the accusation that the PolyMet project is bad for the environment is unwarranted and unsupported. The facts are clear: The project is safe, sensitive to the environment, and will provide great-paying and enduring jobs for hundreds of Minnesota families.

BILL WHITESIDE

HIBBING

 

Kent Kaiser: ‘Up north’ isn’t there just for your pleasure

Minneapolis Star Tribune
January 25, 2010

Believe it or not, Northern Minnesotans are not a bunch of hill billies put here to provide services for tourists. Many of us grow our own … read more food, butcher our own meat and nurture the wild places we live in. This gives us a great incentive to keep those places wild and unspoiled. Many of us also have advanced college degrees and professional level jobs. The garbage that has been dumped on my land illegally came not from my neightbors but from the folks from the city up here for the weekend. If you are looking for something to clean up, look in your own back yard. Do you want Northern Minnesotans to tell you what businesses we'll allow in the Cities?

In a recent commentary ("Minnesotans face a decision about mining," Jan. 22), Betsy Daub of Friends of the Boundary Waters suggested that the movie "Avatar" was being played out in the narrative of new mining operations proposed for northeastern Minnesota.

But Daub had in mind the wrong part of the narrative from that movie. It is Avatar's portrayal of a "White Messiah," swooping in to save the natives of a faraway place from the impact of mining, that she, herself, seemingly seeks to play out. Unfortunately for her, the natives don't want or need a messiah.

Daub's warning about a nonferrous mining operation near Hoyt Lakes proposed by PolyMet Mining Co. is outlandish and based in unreality — not unlike her movie exemplar.

Daub states almost explicitly that northeastern Minnesota constitutes nothing more than a playground for her and her Twin Cities friends, ignoring the fact that people who live up north are the ones best educated and equipped to ensure the sustainability and conservation of the resources that she and her supporters want to experience, albeit only while on vacation.

As a native of Silver Bay, a former resident of the Gunflint Trail, a current Babbitt-area wetland and timberland owner, and a hard-core conservationist, I am, like my neighbors, enthusiastic about the prospect for this new generation of mining operation coming to the area — because I know the facts.

Fact: PolyMet's proposed mine — near Hoyt Lakes — is in a completely different watershed than the BWCA, and nowhere near "Hwy. 1, the scenic entryway into Ely and the wilderness beyond," as Daub claims. Daub suggests that the BWCA could be affected, and this is completely false.

Fact: If any other mining company ever wanted to begin operation anywhere else up north, it would have to go through its own environmental review process. Daub suggests that permitting PolyMet to mine would automatically lead to mining next to the BWCA, which is false.

Fact: PolyMet's operation in Minnesota will be so environmentally and technologically cutting-edge that it will be a model for the world — far from the outdated gloom-and-doom image painted by Friends of the Boundary Waters. The state and federal governments' environmental requirements for this mine will be unprecedented. In fact, this mine might even have a positive effect on the global environment. Indeed, the entire human race would benefit from PolyMet's operation being established instead of a mine in some other, less environmentally conscientious country.

Fact: PolyMet will provide a domestic supply of metals that Americans use every day — nickel, copper, gold, platinum and palladium — in cell phones, computers, catalytic converters, electric cars, wind turbines and medical devices. The global environmental and domestic economic impact of producing these critical metals here, and having to import less from elsewhere, will be very positive.

Fact: PolyMet's operation will create 400 well-paying jobs directly, and there will be hundreds of spinoff jobs. This will add an estimated $240 million to the local economy and to the state's tax base. The University of Minnesota Duluth has produced excellent analyses.

Fact: Our state's leading policymakers, including U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, U.S. Rep. James Oberstar and Gov. Tim Pawlenty support this new generation of mining in Minnesota.

• • •

The establishment of a modern and environmentally friendly mine in our state would be the epitome of good stewardship envisioned by our nation's great progressive conservationist forebears, like Teddy Roosevelt, who fought for the establishment of the national forest system for just such wise-use applications as this. Daub and Friends of the Boundary Waters should leave their "Avatar" fantasy world and join us common-sense conservationists in reality.

Kent Kaiser is a professor at Northwestern College in Roseville and a senior fellow at Center of the American Experiment.

Franconia signs land agreement for Maturi property

Babbitt Weekly News
January 22, 2010

Franconia Minerals announced that it has reached an agreement with the South Kawishiwi Association LLC, a group of nearly cabin owners who are exchanging surface lands with the US Forest Service for surface rights over a portion of Franconia's Maturi mineral deposit.

Under the terms of the agreement, Franconia reinforces its right to access the Maturi Cu-Ni-PGM deposit – via a defined easement – in order to conduct further exploration and possible future development and mining.

The agreement also gives Franconia the future right to purchase up to 15 acres of land from the cabin owners for surface facilities in connection with underground mining operations.

With the signing of the agreement, the company agrees to support the cabin owners' land exchange with the Forest Service.

For their part, the cabin owners will receive an initial cash payment and future annual payments.  Further, the agreement establishes conditions and procedures by which the cabin owners and Franconia will work together in the future.

The Maturi deposit is one of three copper-nickel-PGM resources outlined thus far in the Birch Lake Project – the other two being the Birch Lake and Spruce Road deposits – in the highly prospective Duluth complex in northeastern Minnesota.

The Maturi deposit is the shallow, up-dip extension of Duluth Metal's huge Nakomis deposit.

ACNC, and its parent company Inco Limited, did extensive drilling at Maturi between 1950 and 1974 and developed a 1,100-foot deep exploration shaft.

The uppermost portion of the Maturi deposit reaches within 175 feet of surface.  Maturi is three miles northeast of the Birch Lake deposit.

"While our primary focus remains on the Birch Lake deposit, Maturi holds substantial resources of its own and, along with Spruce Road, clearly demonstrates the excellent additional upside we hold in the Duluth Complex," said Brian Gavin, Franconia's President and CEO.

Franconia is currently focused on the development of the Birch Lake copper-nickel-platinum-palladium project – consisting of the Birch Lake, Maturi and Spruce Road deposits – in the highly prospective Duluth complex in northeastern Minnesota.

A recently updated report estimates an indicated resource of 131.2 million tonnes, plus an inferred resource of 37.5 million tonnes for the Birch Lake deposit.

The deposit would be accessed via underground mining at Birch Lake.

Reader’s view: PolyMet project will not destroy the BWCAW

Duluth News Tribune
January 18, 2010

The writer of the Jan. 7 letter, "Don't let mining company destroy the BWCAW" need not worry. While spending most of his life in the Twin Cities each year, he can remember that those of us who live year-round in Northeastern Minnesota are taking great care of our natural resources. The letter writer, from Apple Valley, Minn., was just flat out uninformed in his fear for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and his criticism of the Duluth newspaper.

The facts are clear. It is impossible for the PolyMet project to impact the waters of the BWCAW. The project and Boundary Waters aren't even in the same watershed. Plus, there will be extremely low air emissions.

The News Tribune has done its homework and learned the facts. Unfortunately, the letter writer from the Twin Cities did not. He seemed to only listen to fears.

The PolyMet project will bring much-needed jobs to our state and the strict regulations already in place will assure its operation keeps our air and water safe.

Dan Olson

Duluth

Franconia Signs Land Agreement for Maturi Copper-Nickel-Platinum Group Metals Property, Minnesota

Franconia Minerals News Release
January 18, 2010

January 18, 2010, Spokane, Washington: Franconia Minerals Corporation (TSX-FRA) ("Franconia") announces that it has reached an agreement with the South Kawishiwi Association LLC, a group of nearby cabin owners who are exchanging surface lands with the US Forest Service for surface rights over a portion of Franconia's Maturi mineral deposit. Under the terms of the agreement, Franconia reinforces its right to access the Maturi Cu-Ni-PGM deposit – via a defined easement — in order to conduct further exploration and possible future development and mining. The agreement also gives Franconia the future right to purchase up to 15 acres of land from the cabin owners for surface facilities in connection with underground mining operations. With the signing of the agreement, the Company agrees to support the cabin owners' land exchange with the Forest Service.

For their part, the cabin owners will receive an initial cash payment and future annual payments. Further, the agreement establishes conditions and procedures by which the cabin owners and Franconia will work together in the future.

The Maturi deposit is one of three copper-nickel-PGM resources outlined thus far in the Birch Lake Project – the other two being the Birch Lake and Spruce Road deposits – in the highly prospective Duluth complex in northeastern Minnesota. The Maturi deposit is the shallow, up-dip extension of Duluth Metal's (TSX: DM) huge Nokomis deposit. ACNC, and its parent company Inco Limited, did extensive drilling at Maturi between 1950 and 1974 and developed a 1,100-foot deep exploration shaft. The uppermost portion of the Maturi deposit reaches within 175 feet of the surface. Maturi is three miles northeast of the Birch Lake deposit.

"While our primary focus remains on the Birch Lake deposit, Maturi holds substantial resources of its own and, along with Spruce Road, clearly demonstrates the excellent additional upside we hold in the Duluth Complex," said Brian Gavin, Franconia's President and CEO.

About Franconia Minerals Corporation (TSX: FRA): Franconia is currently focused on the development of the Birch Lake copper-nickel-platinum-palladium project – consisting of the Birch Lake, Maturi and Spruce Road deposits – in the highly prospective Duluth complex in northeastern Minnesota. The recently updated NI 43-101 report estimates an Indicated Resource of 131.2 million tonnes, plus an Inferred Resource of 37.5 million tonnes for the Birch Lake deposit. Underground mining at Birch Lake will minimize the surface impact of the operation. Also, storage of mine wastes underground would further minimize the surface impact. Additional resources at the Birch Lake project include Inferred Resources at the Maturi deposit (see news release of September 6, 2006) and at the Spruce Road deposit (see news release of December 3, 2007). Independent reports prepared to NI 43-101 standards by Scott Wilson RPA are available at http://www.sedar.com/ and http://www.franconiaminerals.com/.

Franconia Minerals Corporation trades on the TSX under the symbol FRA and currently has 59,082,572 shares issued and outstanding.

In the US: Douglas Sherk: 415 896 6820
dsherk@evcgroup.com

In Toronto: Greg Taylor: 905 337 7673
gtaylor@franconiaminerals.com

In Vancouver: Farah Alibhai: 604 731 7340
info@franconiaminerals.com

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENT: Although Franconia Minerals Corporation believes many of its properties have promising potential, these properties are in the early stages of exploration. None have yet been shown to contain proven or probable mineral reserves. There can be no assurance that such reserves will be identified on any property, or that, if identified, any mineralization may be economically extracted.

Reader’s view: PolyMet not in the same watershed as BWCAW

Duluth News Tribune
January 16, 2010

The Jan. 5 letter, "PolyMet's plan will taint unique environment," was surprising to me. I am confident there are very strict and secure safeguards in place to help protect our local waters. I am sure I will become informed and educated about those facts by reading through the environmental impact statement prepared and published for the proposed PolyMet mine.

I was doubly puzzled by the letter writer's completely unfounded concern about impacts to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The PolyMet project is not even in the same watershed and cannot have an impact on the BWCAW waters.

Our region needs jobs – and fast. As the writer mentioned, the Iron Range is in an economic crisis. This mine would bring many hundreds of badly needed jobs, significant capital investment and opportunities for a turnaround for our region.

I am a life-long resident of the Iron Range and I also understand the value and benefit of our natural resources. By allowing PolyMet to mine for nonferrous metals, we are not signing off on environmental destruction, we will actually be helping the environment by providing means for alternative energy, such as wind turbines and clean technologies that rely on the precious metals that PolyMet will provide. Plus, the state's strict reclamation policies and financial assurance requirements will ensure no taxpayer money is required for any mine clean-up.

The only responsible thing to do during this tough economic climate is to take care of our family members, loved ones and friends who are struggling. Meanwhile, we must keep ourselves educated on all the facts on the issues that may affect the environment and know that the PolyMet plans and processes will meet Minnesota's strict air and water-quality standards.

Some of us also need to brush up on our geography.

John Grahek

Virginia

 

Antofagasta will pour up to $227 million into Duluth Metals copper-nickel project south of Ely

Ely Echo
January 15, 2010

Shareholders in Duluth Metals saw their stock increase 52 percent when the company announced Thursday it has signed a binding agreement with Antofagasta on a joint venture development of the large scale Nokomis project southeast of Ely.

Nokomis is an underground deposit that contains copper, nickel and platinum group minerals and is said to rival the deposits in the Sudbury Basin in northern Ontario and Voisey's Bay in Labrador among the world's largest nickel and copper reserves.

"This is an important announcement in the history of Duluth Metals," said company chairman Christopher Dundas in a teleconference call to shareholders. "Antofagasta has proven expertise in planning, funding and building copper mining projects."

Under the agreement:

• Duluth Metals will contribute the Nokomis Project and approximately 5,000 acres in the Duluth Complex for a 60% interest in the joint venture, with Antofagasta to acquire an initial 40% interest;

• Antofagasta holds the option to acquire an additional 25% of Nokomis from Duluth;

• Antofagasta will provide $130 million in direct funding to the project for its 40% interest in the joint venture;

• Thereafter, if Antofagasta elects to proceed with the further funding of the project and to maintain its 25% option, Antofagasta will disproportionately fund 65% of the joint venture expenditures and Duluth will fund 35%;

• Additionally, Antofagasta has agreed to provide Duluth with up to $30 million in additional funding to cover Duluth's share of subsequent project expenditures, which will ultimately be repayable in cash, Duluth shares or offset against the 25% option exercise price;

• Antofagasta will also immediately buy $11.6 million in Duluth Metals shares;

• The combination of the initial funding commitment, private placement and incremental funding from Antofagasta ensures that up to $ 227 million of funding will be available to advance the project with Antofagasta involvement, before any additional funding would be required from Duluth;

• Antofagasta has also committed to pursue project financing, on a common basis with Duluth in respect of the large development capital cost financing requirements of the project.

"The agreement announced with Antofagasta is an outstanding partnership for an outstanding deposit," said Dundas

"This is a significant step forward for Duluth. This joint venture provides three key benefits that will act as catalysts to the development and construction of Nokomis.

"First, it delivers near and longer-term project development financing that we expect will be sufficient to bring the project to production. Second, Antofagasta is providing a commitment to arrange project financing for the large capital cost requirements, which are projected to be $1.3 billion. Third, it brings outstanding execution capability and mitigates execution risk."

Antofagasta is one of the largest international copper producing companies in the industry with over 4,000 employees. Its activities are mainly concentrated in Chile where it now owns and operates three copper mines: Los Pelambres, El Tesoro and Michilla, with a total production of 428 thousand tonnes in 2007

"Nokomis is an excellent deposit and we are very pleased to enter into this agreement with Duluth," said Marcelo Awad, CEO of Antofagasta Minerals. "This is a large deposit that has the potential to become one of the world's premier low-cost copper-nickel producers. We are looking forward to working with Duluth to advance this very promising project.

"Duluth Metals has done a very good job at advancing Nokomis to its current stage, and we are confident that, together with Antofagasta's technical, operational and development skills, these properties could eventually be developed to their full potential for the mutual benefit of the shareholders of both Antofagasta and Duluth Metals."

Awad added, "Antofagasta employs high standards of health, safety, and environment performance and community relations wherever it operates. Nokomis could represent a major investment in the Arrowhead region of the State of Minnesota and lead to increased local employment there."

"Antofagasta is one of the world's premier major copper producers with an excellent pedigree and track record of success on this type of project," said Dr. Henry J. Sandri, President and CEO of Duluth Metals.

"Antofagasta possesses proven expertise in planning, building and operating large-scale mining complexes and will apply its in-house capability to develop Nokomis," said Sandri. "We believe this partnership is the mechanism required to unlock the tremendous value residing in the Nokomis deposit."

Duluth Metals expects development activities at Nokomis to proceed on an accelerated basis, and anticipates pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility studies to be completed within 36 months.

Currently the Nokomis deposit contains 550 million tonnes of indicated resources grading 0.639% copper, 0.200% nickel, 0.660 grams per tonne PGM (platinum-palladium-gold) for a copper equivalent (CuEq) grade of 1.51%, plus an additional 274 million tonnes of Inferred Resources grading 0.632% copper, 0.207% nickel, 0.685 grams per tonne TPM for a CuEq grade of 1.53% (more information available at www.Duluthmetals.com).

When in operation, Nokomis could produce up to 40,000 tonnes of ore per day, based on an initial 22-year mine life. This estimate is based on utilizing only approximately one-third of the currently identified resource, with 40% of the Nokomis property yet to be explored.

David Oliver, is the project manager for Duluth Metals, and is based in the company's Ely office.

HEDA adopts resolution supporting PolyMet

Hibbing Daily Tribune
January 15, 2010

HIBBING — Those at the helm of city’s arm of economic development have tossed their weight behind PolyMet, the proposed non-ferrous mining operation for the former LTV site in Hoyt Lakes.

Members of the Hibbing Economic Development Authority (HEDA) unanimously adopted a resolution of “full support” for the mining project Wednesday.

PolyMet will use the refurbished Cliffs Erie taconite processing facility to extract copper, nickel, palladium, platinum, cobalt and gold from mineral deposits dug from an open pit mine six miles south of Babbitt.

The project would cost estimated $380 million, would require 1.5 million hours of construction over two years, and result in about 400 full-time jobs once fully operational, according to the resolution.

“PolyMet will provide millions of dollars in local and state taxes to provide much needed support to our communities,” reads the resolution. “PolyMet will have a positive economic impact on the City of Hibbing, just as LTV Steel Mining company had when it was operating.”

Adoption of the resolution comes during the comment period for the project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement, which explores potential impacts and ways to address them. Comments are being accepted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) now through Feb. 3.

HEDA will send the resolution to the DNR.

Mayor Rick Wolff, who moved adoption of the resolution, said the ultimate hope is that PolyMet will secure the necessary permits and be allowed to proceed.

“There’s no denying or escaping the fact that this is a very important project to Northeastern Minnesota,” said Wolff. “It may not be on the same plane as Essar, but very close to what we need to happen — the real diversification of the mining industry in itself as compared to what we normally do here.”

The same resolution is anticipated to be put before the city council next week.

“We need to demonstrate our support from the city’s economic development group but also from the city for the many good things that could happen to the city because of this project moving forward,” said Wolff.

 

 

Reader’s view: Public process ensures sound mining practices

Duluth News Tribune
January 15, 2010

I couldn’t have agreed more with the letter of the Dec. 28 letter, “We need facts, not propaganda, about PolyMet,” that support for PolyMet should be based on factual information.

The letter writer mentioned that the PolyMet process has not yet been adequately explained by local television news outlets. Fortunately, we have an open and public process in Minnesota that includes access to a published environmental impact statement, which clearly states detailed facts on nonferrous mining practices and all of the mitigation practices in place to assure the mine is safe and protects the environment. The statement does, however, require some reading.

PolyMet’s process of mining for nonferrous metals in northern Minnesota is currently regulated by some of the safest and strictest environmental regulations in the country. Not only is this process safe for the environment, it will provide essential metals for green technology such as wind turbines and hybrid cars, which will actually help reduce our carbon footprint altogether.

The letter writer was right when he made the point about jobs in northern Minnesota: They are important and even vital to our economy during this time. PolyMet’s 400 employees and hundreds of added jobs will provide a huge economic benefit to Minnesota.

As a resident of Northeastern Minnesota, I am just as concerned about our environment and the health of our workers as the letter writer. But I trust the facts and am glad we have a good public process and public debate to ensure sound mining practices — so should the letter writer.

Pamela S. Backstrom

Virginia

Copper mining bill’s prospects for hearing in 2010 session are uncertain: Rep. Eken

Politics in Minnesota
January 14, 2010

The chairman of a key House environmental committee says he hasn't decided if he will hold a hearing in the 2010 legislative session on a bill that would require new financial assurances from companies that mine copper and other nonferrous minerals in Minnesota.

The House Environment and Oversight Committee didn't hear a bill last year that pitted environmentalists against Iron Range legislators. The committee's chairman Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, told PIM earlier this week he's not certain yet if a new version of the bill will get heard this session either.

"The verdict is still out on whether we'll have a hearing on it. It depends on the language," Eken said.

He said he believes there's a need for better financial assurances from mining companies. But he doesn't want to take up legislation in which environmental and economic concerns can't be reconciled.

In 2009, legislation was introduced that placed environmental and financial regulations on copper mining companies. Currently a copper mine planned for Hoyt Lakes is going through the state regulatory process.

Last session's bill, sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, drew fierce opposition from Iron Range legislators who argued the bill would undo potential mining projects.

The bill died in Eken's committee.

This year, the bill is a priority for environmental groups. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership included the bill among its top four legislative priorities for 2010.