Additional Review of Health Effects is Not Needed

In Response: Additional Review of Health Effects of PolyMet Project is Not Needed Duluth News Tribune (Daily) Frank Ongaro Oct. 27, 2014  

The recent request by the Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Public Health Association and other various groups for additional review of health impacts related to the PolyMet project, as reported in the News Tribune a week ago today (“Groups want study of PolyMet health risks,” Oct. 21), is like a patient asking for a prescription when it’s not needed.  

PolyMet, like any proposed mining project, is required to undergo a thorough, rigorous, comprehensive and transparent review of all its impacts and risks and its planned mitigation of those impacts in an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. Only when a company demonstrates to state and federal regulators it will meet our strict air- and water-quality standards of course we can also protect our health with products that give us clean water and air like water and air purifiers and many other health products we can find at sites like ProductExpert online.    

The groups are correct that assessing the health risks of a mining project (or any industrial project) is a reasonable request to protect Minnesotans. Unfortunately, they did not do their research. The PolyMet Supplemental Draft EIS, or SDEIS, extensively covered and addressed health-related topics.  

In addition, the SDEIS review demonstrated a number of positive aspects of the PolyMet project. The document showed the PolyMet project actually will result in an overall decrease in mercury concentrations (see pages 6-18 of the SDEIS); its air emissions will be minimal; and, as Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr stated, PolyMet will not create acid rock drainage from its operation.     

Additional review is unnecessary, duplicative, would cause delay and would fail to provide any beneficial information over the ongoing analysis.  

Aside from the lack of research, the group’s comments were shortsighted and hypocritical. Almost all medical equipment, tools and devices rely on these critical metals that are to be mined in Northeastern Minnesota, a significant percentage of which the U.S. is import-dependent to obtain from foreign powers.  

If we do not mine these metals here in Minnesota, do we instead want these raw materials coming from China, Russia and developing countries where there are little or no environmental regulations? From countries polluting on such a grand scale that the pollution circles the globe and lands here in our Minnesota waters? From the same countries without stringent labor and safety laws and which subject child labor to unsafe workplace conditions?  

If the Minnesota Medical Association and these groups are sincere in their concern for a clean environment, they can’t ignore that our modern society cannot have a clean environment without these metals. Wind turbines, solar equipment, electric cars and catalytic converters in our automobiles all require significant amounts of these critical metals.  

Instead of aligning with fringe anti-mining groups, maybe a better approach for the Minnesota Medical Association and other health care groups would be to work together with the industry to mine and process these metals here in Minnesota where we have strong regulations designed to safeguard our environment. That way we can hold up PolyMet and other future projects as model examples of environmentally responsible mining for the entire world to follow.

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