Posted by: mesabimisadventures | November 7, 2009

Give PolyMet a Chance

The Friends of the Boundary Waters have recently begun touting their new anti-mining video that they have produced in response to the freshly released PolyMet Mining EIS.  As my own response to the PolyMet EIS, I have decided to break my writing block and begin a short series in support of PolyMet. 

Give me a voice.  A voice to stand up and defend attacks upon my character and the character of my mining colleagues. 
Give me a chance.  A chance to show that I value Mother Nature and the resources she has provided, both renewable and non.
Give me a moment.  A moment to illustrate all that has changed in mining technologies within the past ten years.
Give me a open-mind.  An open-mind that is willing to accept that this isn’t an epic battle between the good guys and the bad.

Give me a fair playing field.  Recognize that many who could speak in favor of PolyMet are not granted the opportunity.
Give me fair word-play.  I am a “friend” of the Boundary Waters just like I am a “pro-life” pro-choicer.
Give me fair solutions.  Metals are needed (even for green projects) so provide engineering solutions that are economically feasible.
Give me global fairness.  Mining will either happen here or elsewhere; Minnesota has regulations to ensure workers and waters are kept safe.

Give me honesty.  Most PolyMet employees are long-term residents of Minnesota watersheds, not Canadian.  They are your neighbors.
Give me a break.  “Sulfide mining” is inflammatory and misleading.  Please call it what it is or risk your credibility – Cu/Ni/PPG mining.
Give me credit.  Rangers are more intelligent than outsiders like to think.  They are also the ones actually living downstream.
Give me balance.  If someone says Dunka is “screwed up royally,” then the reporter should ask if they have ever set foot at Dunka.*

Give me science, not emotion.
Give me facts, not fears.
Give me solutions, not problems.
Give PolyMet and Minnesota a chance to become global leaders in environmentally responsible mining.

*MPR story about PolyMet*



  1. Awesome post, particularly like the “pro-life pro-choicer” definition, I’m shamelessly going to high-jack that term for my own use! And your last paragraph, should be carved in granite in 10 foot letters where every politician, media person and voter can see it daily. To many people sheepishly follow emotional arguments without the benefit of actually learning the facts behind the situation.

  2. 1) Far from being environmentally responsible, Polymet has a long history of violating even the minimum environmental standards they are legally required to comply with. And the State of Minnesota has a long history of not being willing to aggressively enforce regulations of major mining companies that employ large numbers of people.

    2) Its not clear that, using current technology and worldwide competition, it is even possible to profitably mine in an “environmentally responsible” manner. In fact, this is precisely the argument made when stronger environmental safeguards have been proposed.

    3) You can’t mine copper, nickel and zinc without mining the sulfides that are found with them. That is what makes this mining so much more environmentally dangerous than iron ore mining. No one is going swimming in these pits.

    4) Rangers are not the ones “living downstream”, the proposed mine does not drain onto the Range.

    5) Most of the people getting the benefits of working at Polymet will likely live on the Range while they work there, but the burdens on the environment will effect everyone including future generations long after the ore is gone.

    6) The question is whether this generation has the tools to extract these metals safely and turn a profit. If not, the copper, nickel and zinc will always be there for future generations. Its not going anywhere.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment on this posting Ross. I appreciate your thoughts and hope to address them. I know we will not see eye-to-eye based on different backgrounds and perspectives, but I still feel the conversation is valuable.
      1) PolyMet has never operated a mine so I believe you may be thinking of another company here. Also, they have spent millions already to repair environmental issues at LTV that are a remnant of the days before the MPCA. LTV began operations in the 1950s before regulations so issues are more of a sign of the times than of the mines themselves. Secondly, I would disagree based on the recent number of stipulation agreements and schedules of compliance that have come out of the agency within the past 5 years. I have a lot of respect for the amount of work that the MPCA manages considering the limited funding provided to them. Also, I think you blow off the importance of jobs and the number of spin-off jobs created by mines. Yes, they are an economic force within the State and deservedly so.
      2) Mines are global competitors. Unfortunately, many do not realize the small scale of our mining compared to other countries. They ask for a relatively level playing field, they don’t ask for permission to do as they please. Also, when regulations and ensuing costs to the consumer push the mining overseas, there is significantly more damage done to the environment AND to people than if the mines were to remain in the U.S. As consumers, we would need to be willing to accept greater costs for our goods if they were all to be manufactured within the U.S. I believe our unwillingness to pay for the handed-down costs of environmental regulations as well as union wages and health care is a primary reason why our country has been outsourced.
      3) Geology dictates that the sulfides are removed with the metals they are bound to in the rock. Work completed by the University has shown that the sulfide levels are pleasantly low and that they are uniquely found bound to the metals within the Duluth Complex. This formation is not similar to others that have been mined. I also would argue your statement about no one swimming in these pits. This will not be the infamous Berkeley Pit, different geochemistry and different situation.
      4) I guess we disagree on our definition of the “Range.” I consider that area to be a part of the Range, just like I include Ely because I doubt they would exist if there hadn’t been the mining up there once upon a time (as well as the logging).
      5) I disagree and find it fairly insulting as someone who loves the Range. Not in spite of its flaws, but because of them. This area is my home and if all of the mining were to cease, I would stay even though I’m not a Ranger by birth. Yes, there will be packsackers who will leave, but there is little that can be done to manage that. I know many Rangers who are here for a LOT more than simply financial gain. This is home and home is powerful.
      6) I respect this statement greatly. It is a question that is fair to ask of PolyMet and others.

      Thank you for giving me a lot to think about, especially Comment #6.

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