I was more than amused reading in the News Tribune the latest ludicrous whine from the anti-mining group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy suggesting that the state of Minnesota abandon the PolyMet copper nickel project near Hoyt Lakes (Local View: “It’s time to move on, admit PolyMet has failed,” Aug. 29).
The question first must be asked why the newspaper would allow an opinion piece from a Fridley, Minnesota, resident to be considered a “Local View.” Nevertheless, the Twin Cities suburbanite proclaimed, “It’s time to move on from PolyMet to something better for Hoyt Lakes.”
We in Hoyt Lakes appreciate the concern this “local” resident shows for the economic well-being of our small, close-knit community nearly 200 miles up the road from his home. But we aren’t buying any of his baloney — and no one else should, either.
My town of Hoyt Lakes — along with more than 20 other Range communities, counties, and organizations — passed a resolution in support of this mineral and economic gem.
The PolyMet copper, nickel, and precious-metals mine proposed for our backyard is to deliver more than $500 million annually in economic benefit for our region over the 20-year permitted life of the mine. That’s the equivalent of a Super Bowl coming to town every year. It is expected to create 360 much-needed direct jobs that would pay community-sustaining wages and benefits and about 1,000 jobs overall.
More than 15 years of environmental review and permitting proved that the project can meet or exceed all applicable Minnesota regulations governing the protection of our water and other natural resources.
Despite that headway, the column claimed there is no clean-up plan to address legacy water issues created by previous iron ore mining at the site. The news must be slow getting to Fridley that PolyMet’s water-management and water-treatment plan will clean up the effects of historic iron ore mining and will, in fact, lead to a net reduction of mercury and sulfate loading to the St. Louis River. In other words, PolyMet will leave the site better than it found it. Based on the company’s track record so far, we have full confidence it will deliver on this promise.
The opinion piece lamented that the state has spent more than $10 million of taxpayers’ money in defense of court challenges to the PolyMet permits, “with nothing to show for it.” What the column didn’t say is that the writer’s environmental group, one staffed almost entirely with Twin Cities attorneys and legal support staff, is responsible for a lion’s share of the state’s court costs since it has filed many of the legal challenges to the permits. The state rightfully is defending permits its agencies appropriately and lawfully issued after considerable and careful scientific study, independent analysis, and public involvement.
Hoyt Lakes and the Iron Range need and support the PolyMet mine. Gov. Tim Walz, policymakers, elected officials, and even environmentalists who press for more renewable energy and electric vehicles need modern, responsible mines such as PolyMet’s to produce the high-demand and essential raw materials — copper, nickel, and cobalt in particular — to make the transition to clean energy and clean transportation possible. Unfortunately, the U.S. consumes far more of these metals than it produces, making us dependent on foreign sources. Fortunately, Minnesota’s Duluth Complex, in which PolyMet’s NorthMet deposit is found, is one of the world’s great, undeveloped resources of these metals.
Like iron from the Iron Range that helped build America and win a world war, copper, nickel, and precious metals extracted responsibly from the Duluth Complex can play an equally central role in the nation’s decarbonization efforts.
Gov. Walz and his state agencies need to stay the course.
Chris Vreeland is mayor of Hoyt Lakes. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.