Target: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, Tom Landwehr
Goal: Stop devastating sulfide mining
Polymet Mining Corp. hopes to build a sulfide mine near a pristine federal wilderness in northern Minnesota. The company claims the project will create many new jobs and provide an economic boost to the economically depressed Iron Range, but critics contend the project may cause long-term damage to the environment. Urge the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to reject the permit enabling Polymet to proceed with the mine, which could be operating as soon as 2015.
Polymet first proposed the project several years ago, and now claims that copper-nickel (sulfide) mining will be safe. Yet the approach has caused widespread pollution in other places. Copper and nickel are metals embedded inside sulfur compounds; when extracted and exposed to water and air, sulfuric acid and sulfates are released into the environment. This results in ground – and surface – water contamination, devastating entire ecosystems.
In the past, similar mining projects have left behind contaminants that are impossible to remove. Polymet says it will treat the wastewater and provide emergency funds in case of problems. But if there isn’t enough money to take care of a problem, taxpayers will almost certainly be required to step in.
Environmental groups, such as Conservation Minnesota and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, contend that creating jobs isn’t worth the risk of long-term environmental damage. “To me, the biggest thing is this whole question about 500 years of pollution for 20 years of jobs,” Conservation Minnesota’s Paul Austin said, later adding, “The people of Minnesota really need to be part of a conversation and decide for themselves if that’s a good deal. And it doesn’t sound like one to me.”
Others are concerned that if this mining project goes ahead, other mines will be built and cause further risk to the landscape. If approved, Polymet’s project would take place at the headwaters of streams that flow into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior. It would also directly infringe on three Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Belted Kingfishers and Common Loons are among those threatened by potential pipeline breakages and leaked pollutants.
The Department of Natural Resources can still reject the permit Polymet needs to build the project. If the project is approved, Minnesotans will face the prospect of contaminated landscapes and expensive treatment plans that will never restore the pristine north woods back to its original state.
Urge the Department of Natural Resources to reject this permit and refuse to allow copper-nickel mines to be built in Minnesota.
Dear Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, Tom Landwehr,
Polymet Mining Corp. has requested a permit to construct a sulfide mine in Northern Minnesota that has the potential to permanently damage the ecosystem. This area is beloved for its natural beauty and precious wildlife, but sulfide mining is an expensive and hazardous practice that could destroy this beauty. In the past, no similar project has kept the land safe from broken pipelines, leaked pollutants, and the creation of excessive wastewater.
Already, the company has set aside billions to treat the wastewater it will inevitably generate. It also claims its job creation will compensate for the potential ruin of Minnesota’s valuable wilderness. But they cannot compensate for the damages that would be inflicted on this region should a copper-nickel mine release contaminants into the earth. I urge you to reject the permit that Polymet requires to build this mine, and I encourage you to oppose future mining projects that threaten the environment.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Carol Stoker, NASA, via Wikimedia Commons