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Sulfide Mining: MN COLA Position

Photo, Sierra Club


This is an incredibly risky venture to extract copper, nickel and other heavy metals from sulfide ore in a water-rich environment at the top of the Lake Superior watershed. The PolyMet decisions will set a precedent for a second venture, Twin Metals, at the top of the watershed headed north into the Boundary Waters. MN COLA submitted a comment concerning the Dam Safety Permit which would allow a reinforced 50-year- old old earthen dam to hold back a 900 acre lake of heavily polluted water…forever.

The dam will grow higher and higher to as much a 252 feet tall as more polluted water fills in. Dry storage of the tailings in a compacted state was not considered, and the DNR ignored its own experts regarding both the engineering and the financial implications. MN COLA has also provided a comment in the form of a Resolution regarding the subsequent Permit to Mine (now in draft, not final form), which will depend on the dam.

Current Actions

The financial assurance that PolyMet can actually maintain their dam and protect the environment from catastrophe is a key point for Gov. Dayton, who has otherwise expressed tentative support. The financial plan covers only the maintenance, and not the cost of recovering from a spill. All the money is not required up front, but only gradually as the ore is mined. Once the earth is turned there will be very little leverage over PolyMet to require a cleanup if necessary.

Several professional organizations representing family physicians and nurses, the MN Medical Association and Public Health Association have strongly cautioned the DNR, PCA, EQB, and even the MN Department of Health about several neurotoxins in the tailings, but to no avail. Only the DNR Division of Land and Minerals will make the call.

In order to site the lake of polluted water, PolyMet needs nearly 7000 acres of land now in the Superior National Forest. This has become a major hold up for the project since the Forest Service wanted to conduct a study and court review before transferring out the key lands. There have been several attempts by both the state legislature and federal congress to green-light the project through legislative (i.e., political) means, bypassing science and true expertise.

MN COLA Position

March 1, 2018: MN COLA public comment on PolyMet Sulfide Mining Proposal

October 10, 2017: MN COLA public comment on PolyMet dam safety

September 29, 2015: MN COLA public comment on PolyMet Sulfide Mining Proposal

February 19 2014: Polymet Mining Resolution on PolyMet Sulfide Mining Proposal

Materials and Sources

Three organizations leading the resistance to Sulfide Mining:

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lake and shore

MN COLA serves to coordinate the efforts of all lake, river, and watershed associations in Minnesota, related to shoreline preservation and restoration, water quality, prevention of aquatic invasive species (AIS), and sustainable uses and development for bodies of water in all counties, which include: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Big Stone, Blue Earth, Brown, Carlton, Carver, Cass, Chippewa, Chisago, Clay, Clearwater, Cook, Cottonwood, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Jackson, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Kittson, Koochiching, Lac Qui Parle, Lake, Lake Of The Wood, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, Mahnomen, Marshall, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Norman, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Pipestone, Polk, Pope, Ramsey, Red Lake, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Roseau, St. Louis, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Steele, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Wilkin, Winona, Wright, and Yellow Medicine.

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Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations

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