One thing Becky Rom of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters never seems to mention is that the sulfur content of the Duluth Complex is less than 2 percent. Compare that to the Flambeau mine in Wisconsin, which was at 30 percent and operated and was reclaimed successfully.
Several years of studies have been done on the Duluth Complex since 1976 with data collected from previous mining stockpile sites. AMAX was one of the first copper mines that did extensive drilling. Much of this was in the Dunka Road area. But Rom and others refuse to acknowledge this data. There has been no great impact to Birch Lake or to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from this low-sulfur ore of the Duluth Complex.
Twin Metals changed its plans for its proposed copper, nickel, and platinum-group metals mine to include dry stacking, a method long pushed by environmental groups. But this apparently wasn’t good enough for Rom, as she opined in an Aug. 16 commentary in the News Tribune, headlined, “Despite company's positive spin, what was announced was a setback.” Her commentary was in spite of Twin Metals’ extensive tests that show its tailings will be non-acid-generating.
Rom and Save the Boundary Waters say they are not opposed to the PolyMet mining project, but they misuse information from PolyMet’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The timeframes in the water models in PolyMet’s impact statement have nothing to do with water treatment and everything to do with ensuring that downstream water resources are protected in the event untreated water leaks offsite. The models were not designed to determine the duration of water treatment.
Extended timeframes of 200 and 500 years were needed in the models to represent the maximum potential impacts at the reference points. The modeling years have no correlation to the years that will be required for actual treatment.
It is true that it is impossible to mine without impact to our landscape. There is a large impact with solar and wind farms as well, which utilize mined minerals in their construction.
The U.S. Forest Service is to make minerals from national forest lands available to the national economy and, at the same time, to minimize the adverse impacts of mining activities on other resources. This is why we will have the NEPA process, or environmental impact assessment process, once Twin Metals submits its proposed mine plan.
The Minerals Policy Act of 1980 clearly states we must simultaneously protect the environment and develop minerals: “The federal government, as a fundamental aspect of national minerals policy, must seek balance between the environmental, health and safety statutes and regulations … and the need to ensure the reliable availability of strategic and critical minerals.”
Rom claimed in her commentary in the News Tribune that “if the Boundary Waters is protected from copper mining, the regional economy will continue to prosper and grow.”
If this was the case, tourism would be booming, and it is not. Actually, with the push for more restrictions and more lawsuits from environmental organizations, visitation to the Boundary Waters has decreased over the past 20 years. All the rhetoric about the possible toxic pollution of the Boundary Waters is doing harm and keeping people away.
Let’s allow Twin Metals to submit its proposed mining plan and go through the multiyear permit process.
Nancy McReady of Ely is president of the grassroots group Conservationists with Common Sense (cwcs.org).