Our view: Mining hearing jumping the gunWhy in the world are Minnesota’s top mining regulators being hauled into the State Capitol today in St. Paul to be asked about the dollar amount PolyMet will be asked by the state to set aside to cover costs later if something goes wrong or if the company goes out of business?
No, of course it’s not known yet how much money PolyMet should set aside to cover cleanup costs related to its plans to mine copper and other precious metals in Northeastern Minnesota. Never was that dollar figure supposed to have been determined by this point. Right now the environmental review is still ongoing. How much to set aside for “financial assurance” is to be determined — always was to be determined — during permitting, which doesn’t happen until after the environmental review, probably later this year.
So why in the world are Minnesota’s top mining regulators being hauled into the State Capitol today in St. Paul to be asked about the dollar amount PolyMet will be asked by the state to set aside to cover costs later if something goes wrong or if the company goes out of business? The regulators don’t know yet. They’ll say they don’t know yet. And even though there’s no reason why they should know yet, their responses will provide fuel for the dismay and outrage of those fighting to stop PolyMet and other copper-
PolyMet has vowed to meet its financial obligations for any post-mining costs. With some combination of cash, bank credit, bonds, trust funds, certificates of deposit and other tools, it’ll assemble a financial package now, the company has promised, that’ll generate ongoing revenue to cover ongoing future costs.
It’s hard to see today’s hearing of a Minnesota House committee as anything but an attempt to pollute the pool of public opinion at a time when copper mining is a sensitive and controversial subject and its approval is far from assured, never mind the financial boon it promises if the environmental review determines it can be done without polluting.
How much money will PolyMet be required to set aside, today’s hearing will demand to know. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as the lead review agency, will be put into the uncomfortable and unfair position of having to defend itself for something on which it’s still working.
This isn’t unlike a student being given a month to complete an assignment and then receiving a failing grade after only a week because the work was incomplete. Yeah, today’s hearing seems that much like an assassination attempt.