Friday, January 17, 2014

Public split over huge metal mine proposed in Minn.

The first public meeting to discuss a proposed $650 million open-pit copper mine in northeastern Minnesota was standing room only on Thursday, with an estimated 1,500 people attending to voice their opinions for and against, John Myers reports for the Duluth News Tribune. The meeting, the first of three, lasted for five hours, and "the audience appeared roughly split evenly, with half saying the science is sound and the project is ready to go ahead but half saying that too many questions loom unanswered." (Minneapolis Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler)

The PolyMet Mining Corp. project, which "would produce nickel, gold, platinum, palladium and other valuable minerals ... would create about 300 jobs for about 20 years with the possibility of another 60 jobs if a secondary processing plant is built in the future," Myers writes. "Critics say the threat of acidic mine runoff, along with sulfate and heavy metal water pollution, is too great. They say the project could require water treatment for centuries after the mine is played out, spoiling local waters and leaving taxpayers to pay for the cleanup."

Supporters "say the new jobs will help bolster the eastern Iron Range, where jobs have been scarce since the LTV taconite [iron ore] plant shuttered in 2001, putting 1,100 people out of work. They say the new kind of mining will help diversify the Range economy, spur spinoff jobs across the region and pump millions of dollars of taxes and royalties into local, state and federal coffers." (Read more) (Mining Truth graphic)
At issue was a "Department of Natural Resources forecast — a dense, 2,200-page environmental impact statement released in December that took five years and cost PolyMet about $22 million — of the project’s effect on northeastern Minnesota," Josephine Marcotty reports for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "That analysis, together with public comments, will lay the foundation for decisions by the DNR next year on whether to grant PolyMet the permits that would allow the project to proceed."

Environmentalists fear risks of mining the area, Marcotty writes. "Unlike taconite, which has long been mined on the Iron Range, the precious metals of hard-rock mining are found in ore that contains sulfites. When exposed to air and water, sulfites can create acid drainage that leaches heavy metals and mercury from rock. The acidity can destroy aquatic life." Advocates argue that "only 30 percent of the ore that PolyMet would mine is high in sulfide and that there is reliable technology to prevent acid generation and protect the region’s natural assets." The public comment period continues through March 13, with hearings on Jan. 22 and Jan. 28. (Read more)

No comments: