Local view: Copper mining enriches a few, costs manySeveral things trouble me about the new kind of mining proposed for our neck of the woods.
By: The Rev. Elton Brown, Duluth News Tribune
Several things trouble me about the new kind of mining proposed for our neck of the woods.
I can’t make peace with the fact that the metals with which the corporations wish to enrich their stockholders amount to about 5 percent of the tons and tons of Mother Earth that will be dug up, pulverized and made unusable. Thousands of acres, including valuable wetlands and superb wildlife habitat and corridors, will be sacrificed, wasted.
I think of the stewardship of Native Americans, who, when they killed a bison, made use of every bit of the animal. In contrast, think of the poachers who kill elephants for the valuable tusks, leaving the carcasses to rot. Or the poachers who kill bears just to make a killing, selling the gall bladders to people who believe in their aphrodisiac magic. Or the poachers who hunt and waste endangered rhinos just for the medicine that can be sold from their pulverized horns. Huge destruction and waste for the sake of huge profits for a few.
I’m concerned by the fact there are a number of companies besides Twin Metals waiting in the wings for the PolyMet decision. If PolyMet is permitted, it would seem these other corporations will have an easier time getting their proposals approved. It is also highly probable that PolyMet, Twin Metals and the others each will request extensions, expansions and variances once they have permits in hand. So how many total thousands of acres, including in the Superior National Forest, are we willing to see given over to heavy industry? Is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources willing to say to Teck, for example, “Well, your mining plan looks great, but we’ve already turned over 10 percent of the Superior National Forest to be mined; so, sorry, that’s all the public’s land we are willing to lose”?
Our recent propane-shortage crisis is instructive. It turns out there’s plenty of propane in the U.S. to take care of our needs. But 20 percent of U.S. propane production is being exported to other countries. So consider this: There is no shortage of copper in the world today or in the foreseeable future. If PolyMet gets to mine copper, the company will export it, mainly to China. China will then make products using our copper and sell them back to us. This makes no sense. If our national-
security goal is to become self-reliant in terms of energy and precious metals, why would we allow international corporations to make off with valuable nonrenewable natural resources?
Finally, I can’t understand why we seem willing to sell off these precious metals so cheaply given that the number of local hires will be modest, the duration of the mining will be only a few decades, the loss of public land will be significant and the risk of long-term pollution real. New mining techniques are less labor-intensive, and the value of the mineral deposits will only increase in time. So why not raise ore production taxes significantly to fairly reflect inflation and the huge profits that PolyMet and the others anticipate?
The Rev. Elton Brown is retired in Ely after serving as pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Duluth for nine years.