Forest Service backs land exchange for PolyMet mine site
By John Myers on Nov 17, 2015 at 6:17 p.m (Duluth News Tribune)
The U.S. Forest Service has formally backed a proposed land exchange for property where PolyMet wants to build Minnesota’s first copper mine.
Superior National Forest officials on Tuesday published the so-called record of decision on the land exchange, a critical component to the PolyMet mine plan.
PolyMet needs the land at the mine site, which is now under federal ownership, or it wouldn’t be able to move forward with its proposed copper-nickel-precious metals operations.
As required, Superior National Forest Supervisor Brenda Hatler said she found that the land exchange is in the best interest of the forest, of natural resources and of people of the U.S.
“While my draft decision is only for the land exchange, I have considered the effects of both the mining project and the land exchange as documented in the FEIS in making this public interest determination,” Halter wrote in the decision.
Under the Forest Service draft decision, the agency will exchange 6,650 acres of federal land located in St. Louis County for 6,690 acres of non-federal lands offered by PolyMet in Lake and St. Louis counties. That undeveloped land has been privately owned but is within the larger boundaries of the national forest.
In a new development, some land the Forest Service was to acquire in Cook County near McFarland Lake has been dropped from the deal. Forest Service officials say they will also have to pay PolyMet some cash because the land the government is acquiring is considered more valuable than the mine-area land it is giving up. The Forest Service has decided not to accept land near McFarland Lake as part of the exchange.
The federal lands going to PolyMet have an appraised value of $3,658,000 and the non-federal lands going to the Forest Service have an appraised value of $4,083,000. The government will pay PolyMet $425,000 to make up the difference.
The federal decision on the land exchange follows the Nov. 6 release of the state’s final environmental impact statement on the PolyMet project. Final action on both is expected early in 2016.
The Forest Service’s decision affirms the findings in the state’s environmental review “that the project can meet environmental standards and be protective of the environment while creating jobs and economic benefit,” said Bruce Richardson, PolyMet spokesman. “The release of the Forest Service’s draft record of decision is another significant step ahead for the project. We look forward to executing the land exchange and moving the project forward.”
The exchange has been in the works for years and resolves a disagreement between Polymet and the Forest Service. PolyMet said that it has the right to mine at the site because it owns the mineral rights. But the Forest Service said special federal surface rights supercede mineral rights.
The land exchange avoids what may have been lengthy litigation or a battle in Congress.
“This has been an extremely long and complex project in terms of the technical analyses, the potential environmental effects and the range of interests and agencies involved,” Halter said in a statement. “In any land exchange there are clearly things ‘gained’ by the federal estate and clearly things ‘lost’ to the federal estate. I believe the analysis provides the information on the potential effects of the land exchange as well as the effects of construction, operation and reclamation of the proposed mine needed to issue a draft decision on the land exchange at this time.”
The next step in the Forest Service environmental review process is a 45-day period during which interested parties may file an objection.
Critics of the PolyMet plan said the government is giving up too much and getting too little in return for the mine site land. Several opponents gathered Tuesday in Duluth at a press event sponsored by the Downstream Business Coalition —dozens of Duluth-area businesspeople opposed to copper mining in the area.
“I think it’s too much land. It’s far larger than the mine pit itself, larger than it needs to be,” said Dave Zentner of the Duluth chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America.
Zentner and others said such a large footprint will allow PolyMet to pollute the mine area while still staying within state and federal pollution regulations for air and water leaving the site.
“I think the people of the United States are getting ripped off in this land exchange,” said Kristin Larson, a Duluth-area opponent of the PolyMet project. Larson noted that because the mine site land was acquired through the Weeks Act, rehabilitation required at the site — restoring the site to pristine condition — would have made mining nearly impossible. “Now it will be out from under those rules.”
The Weeks Act of 1911 authorized the federal government to purchase private lands for stream-flow protection and to maintain that newly acquired land as national forests. Its passage made possible the creation of the eastern national forests such as those in Minnesota and Wisconsin that were in large part privately owned land at the time.
Minnesota DNR accepts bids for copper exploration
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held its 34th non-ferrous metallic minerals lease sale Tuesday.
Four different copper mining companies submitted bids to acquire the rights to explore for minerals on 47 parcels called mining units in Aitkin, Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis counties.
Of the 88,572 acres offered for lease on Tuesday, 17,737, or about 20 percent, received bids.
For 145 years, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce has served as the voice of business for our area. We are 1,100 members strong. The 22 leaders who serve on our board of directors are chosen to represent our members and advocate on their behalf.
On Jan. 28, 2014, our board of directors unanimously passed a resolution to fully support and publicly advocate for the PolyMet Mining initiative. The resolution included specific language illustrating how the board agreed to respectfully encourage decisionmakers empowered with determining PolyMet’s future to allow this needed project to proceed.
Two weeks ago, our board of directors agreed to affirm and restate our full support for the PolyMet Mining initiative. This reaffirmation included a directive to send a letter to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton stating the Chamber’s resolute support for the PolyMet initiative. By the time this article appears in the Duluth Budgeteer News, Gov. Dayton will have received the Chamber’s letter.
The Chamber worked hard to establish, and now enjoys, a productive and respectful relationship with Gov. Dayton. Hopefully, Gov. Dayton will appreciate hearing from a trusted and respectful friend regarding PolyMet.
Having served our region since Duluth was incorporated as a city in 1870, our Chamber has witnessed how hard economic times can devastate our collective community. We, therefore, share the pain that is experienced by our brothers and sisters on the Iron Range when the mines are closed or operating under capacity. Consequently, the Chamber recognizes and appreciates how several of our members have already benefited by providing resources to PolyMet Mining as the company has worked through the planning and approval phase of this project.
We understand that once PolyMet receives its permits, several more Duluth area businesses will provide services and product to the PolyMet initiative. The positive economic impact will exponentially grow when construction and mining begin. Additionally, our board appreciates how strategic metals mining will have a positive impact on local tax revenue and education funding.
In summary, the Chamber stands in solidarity with other advocates who support the PolyMet initiative. We understand and appreciate how the mining of resources in Northeastern Minnesota will generate thousands of new jobs for our neighbors from throughout the region.
We encourage Gov. Dayton and other decisionmakers to allow this needed, beneficial project to proceed.
David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duluth businesses brew up controversy
Member of anti-PolyMet coalition says opposition to Range project misunderstood
BILL HANNA Executive Editor Mesabi Daily NewsPosted: Saturday, November 14, 2015 9:00 pm
The owner of Rocket Liquors in Virginia was out of the area doing some duck hunting a few weeks ago and returned to find out that a Duluth Downstream Business Coalition anti-PolyMet movement had been born.
Jerry Christopherson said he wanted to look into the situation a little closer before determining whether to continue carrying a product of Bent Paddle Brewing Co., which was one of 40 Duluth businesses that founded the coalition.
He made his decision in just a couple days. He would no longer display or sell Bent Paddle beer. That had previously also been the determination of Silver Creek Liquors in Mountain Iron.
“We don’t have it,” said a Silver Creek employee on Saturday.
Christopherson said he was visited soon after by representatives of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.
“They gave me a six-pack of a new beer they were brewing and said they wished I would change my mind and put Bent Paddle back. I told them it’s not necessarily me they have to convince, it’s the workers and people who make a living on the Range,” Christopherson said in a telephone interview.
And what of their request?
“I certainly won’t put it back under these circumstances,” he said.
Christopherson said he also heard some places in Ely “are getting rid of it, too. I thought Ely could go either way, but they’ve had enough static.”
The coalition’s stance against the copper/nickel/precious metals near Hoyt Lakes, which would create 350 permanent jobs and hundreds more in indirect position and more than 2million hours of construction, has triggered a strong response on the Range.
A letter to the editor in today’s Mesabi Daily News Op/Ed section calls for a boycott of the Duluth businesses that formed the coalition.
Tom Hansen, owner of the Duluth Grill that is part of the anti-PolyMet group, said the coalition’s purpose is being misunderstood.
“We’re not against mining, one bit. In this age of social media, the division of the Iron Range and Duluth is misrepresenting our position,” Hansen said.
“We’re a big supporter of the Iron Range. We’re doing $25,000 to $50,000 with Sunrise Deli in Hibbing and $62,000 with Dahl’s Dairy.”
Hansen said the group is just “asking for concern for water.”
Frank Ongaro, executive director of MiningMinnesota, an advocacy group for nonferrous mining, said the entire regional economy, including Duluth, is dependent on mining.
“All the jobs and income numbers make that obviously clear,” he said. “It’s unfortunate a few uninformed, or misinformed small businesses are just plain wrong on the facts.”
But Ongaro said most Duluth businesses support PolyMet.
“Fortunately, the vast, vast majority of Duluth businesses support PolyMet and copper-nickel mining. Look at the strong resolution of support from the Duluth Chamber. Also, the Duluth Building Trades and Labor, and, the St. Louis County Board,” he said.
The Department of Natural Resources posted the PolyMet final Environmental Impact Statement on Nov. 6, which says the project meets all state environmental standards for a “safe” operation, including water treatment.
But Hansen said he and others don’t trust that process.
“I’m skeptical,” he said of the DNR. “People can influence other people. My skepticism comes from what is happening in our own government.”
Ongaro said that is very unfair to the regulatory agency and their workers who are doing their jobs for good public policy in the state.
“The state DNR is following the law. The FEIS shows PolyMet will not harm watershed.
“Their opposition to mining is certainly hypocritical. They all need these metals. Where do they want their metals to come from? Unfortunately, it sounds elitist,” he said.
Hansen said he can’t comment on whether he thinks modern technology has improved mining, or on whether he would want the metals needed for everyday life, including the green economy, to be mined where there are no environmental standards.
“I’m not an expert to comment on that. I just want to ensure that the environment will be held up to my kids and grandkids to have a wonderful life. And we can’t trade clean water and tourism for copper and nickel,” Hansen said.
Regarding the Iron Range, which always has a higher unemployment rate than other areas of the state, and its need for the jobs, Hansen said, “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket. Why not spend all that money on small businesses.”
As for his business, Hansen said it has improved 12 percent to 15 percent since the controversy has arisen. But he said waiting lines at the restaurant are often too long for too long a time, “… so maybe this will allow us to hit our sweet spot.”
The Duluth restaurant owner said those on the coalition should not be looked upon as dividing Duluth and the Range.
“We’re stronger as a northland than being divided. We make no apology for our stand. I wish everyone could just sit at a table and talk this out, including PolyMet,” he said.
Guest Column: Let’s wrap up PolyMet
Get the important project permitted.
Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 12:50 pm (Mesabi Daily News)
U.S. REP. RICK NOLAN Washington
After 10 long years, the rigorous approval process for PolyMet’s NorthMet copper, nickel and other precious metals mining project has reached a major milestone: The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was published this month in the Federal Register.
Having studied the details closely, and after numerous meetings with all the parties involved, I’m urging the co-lead agencies — the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service — to wrap things up so the project can be permitted and operational at the earliest possible date.
The decision whether or not to go forward with PolyMet and new mining on the Range is about process, not politics. PolyMet has always been candid in its willingness to comply with every rule, regulation and financial assurance the process requires to protect our environment and the clean water we all depend on.
Moreover, the FEIS represents a plan — and execution of that plan will require vigorous monitoring and enforcement. With those factors in mind, the reasons to support the project are clear.
First, as everyone knows, we need the jobs. With hundreds of miners laid off due to the illegal dumping of millions of tons of foreign government subsidized steel into our marketplace, PolyMet will bring hundreds of good paying new jobs to the Range. With more bad trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatening to exacerbate the crisis, we need the project up and running soon.
Second, our nation needs the copper, nickel and other precious minerals within the Duluth Complex to meet our needs in defense, manufacturing, high technology, health care, environmental “green” industries and medical research. In the future, essential minerals for groundbreaking new cancer treatments should come from northeastern Minnesota, reducing our reliance on platinum compounds we must now import from South Africa.
The hybrid cars, wind turbines, solar panels, phones, computers, scanners and other high tech devices that have transformed the world all require cooper and nickel. Yet despite the rich deposits we have right here in our own backyard, we are still importing 35 percent of all the copper used in America, and almost 100 percent of the nickel. That makes no sense.
Moreover, access to minerals is a potential national security issue. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that the United States is 100 percent dependent on foreign suppliers for 17 critically important minerals — and more than 50 percent dependent on foreign sources for at least 24 others.
The third big reason to support the PolyMet project is our obligation to the earth and environment — or as Pope Francis likes to say, “our common home.” By continuing to import the minerals we need for our products and technologies from China and other nations that sacrifice clean air, water and timber resources for short-term gain, we perpetuate a system that exploits the planet and harms workers. By doing copper and nickel mining the right way, PolyMet can establish a global standard for environmental stewardship worthy of our workers, our region and our great nation.
Rick Nolan is the congressman for Minnesota’s 8th District, which includes the Iron Range
Final EIS gives green light to PolyMet copper-nickel project
November 6, 2015Updated Nov 6, 2015 at 6:58 PM CST
St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Friday gave PolyMet the go ahead to mine with the release of its final Environmental Impact Statement.
The long awaited EIS states the proposed mining project can process copper nickel in a manner that complies with the law and protects the environment.
“Completion of the Final EIS is a huge milestone for PolyMet, for the Iron Range communities, and for the state of Minnesota,” said Jon Cherry, president and CEO. “It is the culmination of more than a decade of detailed analysis and thorough review from various state and federal regulatory agencies.”
The 3,000 page document, found here, is an environmental analysis of the potential environmental impacts the copper nickel mine may or may not have in Northern Minnesota.
According to the document, the biggest risk of PolyMet is water contamination.
A 30 day public comment period is expected to get underway next week.
The project still requires local, state and federal approvals and permits.
“The co-lead agencies have brought the highest level of rigor and objectivity to the NorthMet environmental review,” said Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Our responsibility is to conduct a neutral evaluation based on information from the company, our own analysis, and the comments we receive. The process has been thoughtful, independent and thorough.”
The proposed mine would be located in Hoyt Lakes and is expected to create 360 long-term jobs.
Supporters of the PolyMet copper/nickel/precious metals project near Hoyt Lakes said the Department of Natural Resources and other co-lead agencies ruling on a final Environmental Impact Statement were just taking far too long.
Opponents of the nonferrous project said they could wait and wait and wait and wait and …..
But the bottom line is that DNR employees and its commissioner, Tom Landwehr, were doing their job in a complete and thorough manner.
On Friday all those involved in the process, including the two other co-lead agencies — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service — polished off and released the final EIS product.
We are obviously extremely pleased with the result of the EIS, which says the PolyMet project meets all state environmental standards (really exceeds them) for a “safe” mine venture. In other words: Copper/nickel mining can be done in an environmentally sound way while creating, in the case of PolyMet, 350 permanent jobs, several hundred more indirect positions and more than 2 million hours of construction.
That clears the way for a determination of adequacy for the project — which is really only a formality as officials would not have published an EIS document that was not adequate — and then to allow for permit applications.
It’s an historic step toward Minnesota’s first nonferrous mining operation, which is obviously controversial.
But the DNR commissioner and his staff, all of whom worked tirelessly to produce the final EIS, put their blinders on and put together a document based on science and common sense.
It was clearly an independent-based procedure.
We applaud the work of . Mark Dayton’s DNR commissioner, Tom Landwehr, and his staff. They served Minnesotans very well.
A long, careful process toward copper-nickel mine: Pioneer Press editorial
Pioneer Press POSTED: 11/07/2015 12:01:00 AM CST | UPDATED: ABOUT 19 HOURS AGO
Minnesotans should appreciate the process that is purposefully working its way to a conclusion as the state decides whether to allow copper and nickel mining on the Iron Range.
After 10 years, it reached a landmark Friday when the state’s Department of Natural Resources issued the final environmental impact statement on the proposed PolyMet mine near Hoyt Lakes in northeastern Minnesota. If other steps proceed and the department approves the 3,000-page document early next year, the company then could begin applying for the nearly two dozen permits it will need.
Since the beginning, the debate weighed the potential for new private-sector jobs and tax revenue against the threat of environmental damage. With the process, there is a path toward both: the work that people in the region know and want and the safeguards needed to protect a treasured landscape.
Key for the region — and a driver of political support for the project from many of its elected officials — is that ready-and-waiting workforce to fill 350 full-time, family-supporting jobs. The region’s people, with their deep roots and long mining history, “are a huge asset for us,” PolyMet President and CEO Jon Cherry told the editorial board last month.
The mine would yield copper, nickel, cobalt and other precious metals from deposits in the so-called Duluth Complex that are associated with the 1.1 billion-year-old Mid-Continent Rift.
While demand for those metals is increasing, PolyMet says, very few mines in the nation produce them.
The metals are essential for our modern conveniences, and the ease, comfort and economic benefits that go with them. When we embrace wind power, we should do so with the realization that an industrial-size wind-energy turbine requires, as Cherry noted, about 10,000 pounds of copper. Plumbing, electricity, hybrid cars, aircraft engines and the ubiquitous cell phone battery all rely on metals that PolyMet would mine.
The arguments for such mining in Minnesota include the benefits that come with production here — under stringent and exacting environmental requirements — rather than elsewhere in the world, without those strict standards.
Cherry expresses confidence in the process and its rigors. In the end, “if you’ve fulfilled the law, it should move forward,” he told us.
He makes the point that environmental safeguards are “backstopped” by financial assurances the state will hold. Minnesota law requires non-ferrous mining companies to have bankruptcy-proof financial resources in place to cover possible environmental cleanup costs before the state will issue a permit to operate.
Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wants a review of company finances to help provide assurances about covering cleanup costs, lest taxpayers be stuck with the bill.
Dayton also has said the matter represents the “most difficult and consequential decision I’ll make as governor.” He last month toured two facilities as part of his due-diligence effort: the Gilt Edge Mine in South Dakota, a federal Superfund cleanup site that has cost taxpayers more than $100 million, so far; and the Eagle Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that opened last year.
Cherry, who brings a background in environmental engineering to his work, was responsible for permitting and initial development at the Eagle Mine. Dayton returned from his visit there impressed with community outreach, environmental protections and technological operations, according to a Pioneer Press report.
The Eagle Mine’s nickel and copper, like the ore deposit at the PolyMet site, are bound up in sulfide minerals that can leach sulfuric acid when exposed to air and water, an Associated Press report explains, noting that mining opponents also worry about ongoing prospecting that could lead to more mines in the area.
PolyMet has said that working in an established mining district and reusing the existing infrastructure reduces development costs, as well as new disturbances to the environment. Its reuse of a former taconite processing plant amounts to Minnesota’s largest scrap metal recycling project, the company says.
Weighing other benefits, the project — in addition to the economic boost to the region from workers’ wages — will include an estimated $15 million annually in state and local tax revenues, according to a University of Minnesota Duluth study.
PolyMet notes that it has invested more than $200 million during the process. It’s part of “doing it right,” Cherry told us, stressing that the process is the place to address questions.
Much depends on our ability to ask, and answer, them all in a thoughtful, balanced way.
Every careful step will help us figure out complex issues, and live well with the results.
Our view: Embrace PolyMet’s milestone
Postedat 11:01 p.m. (www.duluthnewstribune.com)
Prospectors, mining companies and others long have sniffed around at northern Minnesota’s rich veins of copper, nickel and other precious metals, knowing they were among the richest in the world.
But no one has come as close to actually extracting those metals, as close to actually mining, as PolyMet, which is expected to reach a major milestone in early November, perhaps even as soon as this week. PolyMet will take a giant leap closer to operations with the release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, a document that effectively marks the end of an exhaustive and effective environmental-review process of more than 10 years and that ushers in the process of awarding as many as about 23 permits, including the all-important permit to mine.
“When you look across the nation, a Final EIS, having a Final EIS on a new mine project, is really uncommon,” PolyMet’s St. Paul-based Executive Vice President of Environmental and Governmental Affairs Brad Moore said in an interview late last week with the News Tribune, including the Opinion page. “They’re uncommon because they’re very tough processes. They take a long time to get through. So having this EIS completed in a thorough manner is a major milestone for the company. And the fact that the state and federal agencies and their years of review have gotten to this point really shows how thoroughly the regulatory agencies have analyzed the issues here in order to make sure that, moving forward, the environment and environmental topics are managed properly.
“It’s the most extensive EIS in Minnesota history,” Moore said.
“It’s the biggest milestone for the company, I think, to date,” said LaTisha Gietzen, PolyMet’s vice president for governmental and environmental affairs.
The lengthy process has been effective because it flagged shortcomings that since have been addressed — or assumably have been addressed; critics and supporters alike will know for certain once the FEIS drops. The extensive environmental review assures the mining can be done, and will be done, without harming water quality or air quality and without doing other environmental damage.
As key a moment as the statement’s release will be, PolyMet is still a ways from mining.
The U.S. Forest Service needs to issue a record of decision about the statement, allowing a land exchange to proceed. Its record of decision won’t come until after a 45-day public-comment period that could be extended.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will put wetlands permits on notice before issuing a record of decision of its own. Its permits aren’t expected until spring.
And the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (or perhaps Gov. Mark Dayton; it’s a little murky how his interjecting himself into all of this will work out and affect things) has to determine whether the FEIS is adequate. That determination won’t come until after a public-comment period that, by law, needed to be 10 days long but that actually will be 30 days because of the complexity and size of the statement and of the project. Comments will be limited to whether the rules were followed in preparing the FEIS, whether its 58,000 public comments were responded to and whether the document covers what it was supposed to.
“We have no plans to submit permit applications until after the adequacy decision,” Moore said. “We’re interested in seeing the comments as well. That will inform us as we work on the next stages of this process. We’re interested in what the people say.”
In 2016, with the environmental-review process complete and the permitting process underway, the DNR will hold a pre-application meeting on the permit to mine, Moore said. It’ll be a key public gathering related to actual permitting.
The goal is to issue permits within 150 days. A threat to that is the expectation of state and federal lawsuits. Those are expected once the DNR (or governor?) rules that the FEIS is adequate. The permitting process can continue during any legal challenges.
“This is a document that was thoroughly vetted … and really has covered the breadth of issues,” Moore said. “The fact that it will move forward with people questioning it and challenging it is expected. … We certainly know there are topics people have disagreements on, but the EIS has thoroughly covered those topics and has a response or a thoughtful approach to them such that we think the EIS is defensible in litigation.
“We have really good attorneys,” he said. “They go through all these issues thoroughly.”
The hot-button issue of financial assurance — making sure there’s enough money in the bank in case something unexpectedly goes wrong — won’t be settled until during the permitting process. It’s not in the FEIS. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement indicated
$50 million to $200 million of financial assurance would need to be put up, plus $6 million a year. Whatever the number is, it’ll need to be bankruptcy-proof, and it’ll be thoroughly reviewed and adjusted up or down on an annual basis.
The financial assurance could come via letters of credit, insurance, bonds, trust funds and other financial instruments, the banks and other issuers of the backing doing their own due diligence on the validity of PolyMet and its project. If financial institutions are willing to put up big bucks, the public can be that much more assured the project is being done properly and is being watched closely.
After more than 10 years of environmental review — and with the end of that process now imminent and the start of the permitting process poised to begin — northern Minnesota could be providing the copper and other precious metals the world needs before the end of next year. Importantly for northern Minnesota, that also means we soon could be basking in the benefit of hundreds of millions of dollars of long-promised economic impact from the industry.
So PolyMet’s giant leap, its major milestone, can be welcomed and embraced, perhaps as soon as this week.
Local view: Duluthians, let’s support progress, not NIMBYism
“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words were a source of inspiration more than seven decades ago and, while plenty has changed in our world, their meaning still rings true.
It is human nature to always strive for what is better. We want better jobs for our citizens and a better tomorrow for our children. At the core of these desires are the people who have the commitment to make dreams reality. In Duluth, we are lucky to have a robust list of attractions and entrepreneurs that put us on the map. From Canal Park to Morgan Park, we’re a city of doers and innovators.
Even as we celebrate progress and a growing economy here in Duluth, we are dismayed when we see NIMBYism. It’s OK to use precious metals like copper and nickel in every aspect of our daily lives and commerce, but it’s not OK to support the responsible industry that produces these metals in our region, even if they demonstrate a high degree of technological innovation and commitment to safety?
Duluth and our region depend on sustainable business development, and clean water and a pristine wilderness are hallmarks of our region.
There is a place in our regulatory process for opposition and diverse views. Expressing informed positions during public-comment periods ultimately can make projects and companies even stronger stewards of the environment. PolyMet’s supplemental draft environmental impact statement drew 58,000 public comments that regulators have spent several months reviewing.
Our state and federal agencies have a thorough process in place to ensure the proposed PolyMet mine meets all of the rigorous environmental protections required by law, including providing significant financial assurances. Regulations aren’t anything new. Trusted systems are in place to make sure that legal, responsible projects can deliver hundreds of jobs and a protected environment. All businesses — from your local day care to the accounting firm that does your taxes to mining companies — must meet regulations to ensure our assets are protected.
On the eve of the release of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for PolyMet, the strength and thoroughness of the environmental-review process is evident. This project would not be allowed to move forward if it could not meet or exceed the most stringent laws and regulations in the world. The FEIS is the culmination of a due-diligence process led by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that was a decade in the making. This time was well spent, resulting in careful studies and analysis of PolyMet’s plans to produce a project we can be proud to have in St. Louis County.
There is risk in anything, but the regulatory process allows us to mitigate risk while still benefitting from the abundant rewards. PolyMet will generate $515 million annually in St. Louis County, including in Duluth, in wages, benefits and other spending.
As Duluthians who also represent business development and labor, we’re excited for the opportunities this economic impact will bring to our region, and we want these metals produced in Minnesota versus countries with weak protections for the environment and workforce.
We have a common goal to do better, and we have a common solution to embrace the opportunities in our own backyards. We support legal and responsible businesses. PolyMet is one of them.
Craig Olson is a member of a pro-mining group called Jobs for Minnesotans and Brian W. Hanson is a board member of Jobs for Minnesotans. Hanson also is president and CEO of APEX, or the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, the private sector-led business development engine for Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. Olson also is president of the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council.
Local view: PolyMet opponents prosper by using metal
I really needed the laugh, and the front-page story on Oct. 14, “Duluth business owners oppose copper mining,” certainly delivered.
The Downstream Business Coalition, a self-appointed council of imperious business owners, has come together to promote “opposition to copper mining.”
What made this so funny were some of the businesses involved. Vikre Distillery, for example, peppers its website with photos of all the copper and stainless-steel equipment it uses to produce its products. Where do its owners and operators think all of that comes from? Bent Paddle has a virtual factory tour on its website, depicting all the stainless-steel equipment it uses to brew beer. Plus, there are photos of thousands of aluminum cans it fills.
Stainless steel, of course, is composed of nickel and other mined metals. And aluminum is made from bauxite, which is mined in crude, lightly regulated mines in Jamaica, Indonesia and Ghana, among other places.
Do these business owners care that the resources they’re using to manufacture their products pollute the land and water somewhere else? Do they realize that, according to National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol kills 2.5 million people annually while mining only kills 12,000 worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization?
Surely these business owners all drive or ride in cars. All materials to assemble vehicles are trucked to the plants, using massive amounts of oil. Shipping by truck is the least efficient method possible.
Too many people who oppose mining have succeeded in life and then look around and decide that since they got theirs nobody else needs to similarly prosper. What about the 1,000-plus miners in Keewatin who lost their jobs this summer? What about the fact that the PolyMet Mining project will generate an estimated $720 million in wages over 20 years and have an annual $500 million economic impact on the region, according to the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics? That’s an economic impact of $1.4 million a day or nearly $5 billion over the 20-year permit. In addition, the project will create an estimated $15 million annually in state and local tax revenue and $45 million annually in federal tax revenue.
The business owners’ pollution claim was perhaps most laughable. Polymet will be so scrutinized by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and volunteer organizations, there’s no chance polluted water will be discharged into the St. Louis River.
Thanks for the laughs.
Israel Malachi of Duluth is vice president of the Northern Liberties Alliance