Reader's view: Auditor’s mining stand a proper watchdog roleCandidate Randy Gilbert’s Nov. 18 column (A View on Mining: “Otto’s anti-mining vote ignores interests of northern Minnesota”) rightly described the role of the state auditor as watchdog for Minnesota taxpayers.
Candidate Randy Gilbert’s Nov. 18 column (A View on Mining: “Otto’s anti-mining vote ignores interests of northern Minnesota”) rightly described the role of the state auditor as watchdog for Minnesota taxpayers. State Auditor Rebecca Otto’s vote against issuing additional mineral leases until she can be assured Minnesota taxpayers are protected was fulfilling that role.
Taxpayers across the country are already on the hook for
$50 billion of cleanup costs from closed, polluting sulfide mining operations. In most cases, companies declared bankruptcy or simply walked away from mines after closure, leaving taxpayers on the hook. In Colorado, the company that operated the Summitville mine declared bankruptcy, leaving taxpayers with a $230 million cleanup bill. That’s nearly three years of funding for the Duluth public schools.
Unfortunately, the first copper-nickel mine proposed for Minnesota hasn’t yet adequately addressed concerns about taxpayer liability. Despite calls by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to include details of financial assurance in the upcoming PolyMet Environmental Impact Statement, the company and its contractor haven’t done so. Failure to consider the costs of cleanup at the beginning of the environmental review process risks putting Minnesota in the same position as other states stuck with long-term cleanup costs. Since PolyMet is proposing a mine that would require 500 years of treatment of polluted water after closure, at a cost of billions of dollars, this is a real concern.
In describing her vote, Otto said, “As state auditor, I want to be sure that we’re thinking of the fiscal burden it could place on the next generation.”
That’s exactly the role of the state auditor, and we all should be thankful she is fulfilling her responsibility.
The writer is a member of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness (friends-bwca.org).