Local View: Former Gov. Carlson calls on Minnesotans to oppose sulfide mining

From the column: "Sulfide mining is vastly different from mining for iron ore."

Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson gestures while speaking Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, during a Duluth for Clean Water rally on the steps of City Hall in Duluth. (Clint Austin / Forum News Service)

In an appeal to Minnesotans who care for clean water and air, as well as for environmental justice, former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson urged people to write and call their legislators about plans to mine nickel and other strategic metals in north-central Minnesota.

In an open letter published in February, Carlson expressed frustration with the administration of Gov. Tim Walz, asking, “Why is the state of Minnesota doing business with an international corrupt company such as Glencore, and why is it being permitted to partner with a Canadian mining company in Teck Resources — 10% owned by the China Investment Corporation and possessing a lengthy record of environmental destruction?”

Minnesotans can agree that our nation needs metals such as copper, nickel, and titanium that are vital to our technological economy, Carlson stated. But he also wrote, “Our supply of drinking water is diminishing while our demand is increasing, and the state’s leadership is silent.”

In a follow-up conversation with the Tamarack Water Alliance, a volunteer group of Minnesota residents and landowners, Carlson said, “We can further agree that Minnesota needs to protect its dwindling supply of healthy drinking water. We should also be able to come together on the reality that certain types of mining, including sulfide mining, are highly dangerous. Just two mining projects — the Tamarack, or Talon nickel, project and the NewRange Copper Nickel project — will place the bulk of Minnesota’s drinking water at risk, and this includes the metro area.”

In the same conversation, Carlson quoted former Vice President Walter Mondale’s sentiment that sulfide mining has never been environmentally sound near a watery environment.


Sulfide mining is vastly different from mining for iron ore. When extracting metals such as copper and nickel, the process risks creating a chemical reaction that can generate sulfuric acid that could migrate to adjacent rocks and release mercury, arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, etc., into the air and water. This clearly would be deadly to the surrounding environment and the drinking water for Minnesotans, as Carlson explained.

Carlson will speak to the public about his call for action at the Tamarack Water Alliance’s monthly virtual community call on Wednesday, May 3 at 10 a.m. Register to get a link at .

If the state of Minnesosta grants the requested permits to Talon Metals, the Tamarack Mine could affect a number of waters, including Big Sandy Lake, and a variety of rivers, including the Mississippi, which services the Twin Cities and an endless number of communities downstream. Regardless of any Minnesotan’s station in life, they share in the need for clean air, healthy water, and nutritious food. Today, Minnesota’s water and, ultimately, its food supply are in very serious jeopardy, according to Carlson.

Governor from 1991 to 1999, Carlson said he has been unable to get an answer from the Walz administration on why the state is doing business with Glencore. He expressed concern to the Tamarack Water Alliance about Glencore being accused of bribing public officials. The Walz administration has failed to take action, Carlson said.

The first step should be evaluating the risks inherent with proposed mining projects and making certain that Minnesota laws are fully applicable to current circumstances. Walz did not propose any updates to our ineffective disclosure laws, such as compelling all campaign contributions to be traced back to their original source. Nor did he propose a review of Glencore to determine if the company has been accused of improper dealings also in Minnesota.

Even a cursory glance at Tamarack Mine parent company Rio Tinto’s track record shows concern. The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission this year ordered Rio Tinto to pay a $15 million civil penalty for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“Partnering with Glencore and Teck Resources violates (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) pledges and severely compromises the integrity of public service,” Carlson said in closing his open letter to the Walz administration.

Lynn Mizner of Palisade, Minnesota, is a volunteer for the Tamarack Water Alliance, a freelance writer, a regenerative farmer, and an environmental scientist.


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Lynn Mizner

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