Are you confident the proposed PolyMet mine would avoid polluting Minnesota’s water?

“[The] DNR has described a mine that functions perfectly, exactly as intended, that has no problems whatsoever…but they don’t explore scenarios in which something goes wrong.” — Kathryn Hoffman, an attorney for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

“Minnesotans have until Thursday to comment on the environmental analysis of the proposed PolyMet mine, a huge document containing detailed plans on how the company would keep pollutants from the mine and tailings basin out of nearby lakes and rivers. That plan hinges on new technologies and engineering that PolyMet added after its last proposal was sharply criticized four years ago,” writes MPR News reporter Dan Kraker.

Along the north side of the vast tailings impoundment, the company plans to build a five mile long wall to capture water that runs through the tailings and picks up metals, sulfate and other pollutants. Company officials are confident the process will work.

“The cut off wall that we’re putting in, that will go all the way down to bedrock,” Cherry said. “Those type[s] of technologies have been around for some time. This isn’t like a new technology that we’re trying out for the first time here.”

Similar walls have proven successful at mines from Montana to Alaska, and at landfills around the country.

But few have been built as large, said Dave Chambers, president of the Center for Science and Public Participation in Montana.

“The concern with the slurry walls that are that big,” he said, [is] “are you going to be able to guarantee that you’re going to be able to anchor that slurry wall in bedrock along that whole perimeter?”

Chambers said the bedrock could fracture beneath the wall when it’s installed, which could allow water to seep through.

Today’s Question: Are you confident the proposed PolyMet mine would avoid polluting Minnesota’s water?

  • Chris

    No. How could anyone be confident the mine won’t pollute. In fact we should all be confident it will pollute. Has a copper/nickel mine ever not polluted? It is such a terrible idea to allow this mine in such a fresh water rich wilderness area in exchange for short term jobs. I hope the EPA steps in and stops this the way they are stopping the Pebble mine in Alaska.

  • bmacneal

    Copper? Nickel? Laissez-faire regulatory climate? What could possibly go wrong?
    0% confidence this won’t end badly. I don’t doubt we have the science and engineering to pull off such a reckless environmental crap-shoot, but there’s no way an enfeebled EPA or MPCA could verify & enforce the requisite science and engineering proffered by a corner-cutting, profit-motivated mining corporation.

  • Larry Sanderson

    Oh yes! Yes! YES! I’ve never ever heard of no corporation ever taking advantage or polluting nothing!

  • Jim G

    Will the sun come up tomorrow? Certainly it will because it is based in scientific fact, and it has been proven by human observation for thousands upon thousands of years. Will the Polymet mine pollute? Certainly it will, because it is based upon chemically based facts that sulfide rock releases compounds that kill life when exposed to air and water. Will the largest slurry wall ever constructed provide protection against the spread of polluted water for centuries? Only in your dreams…

  • Jamie
    • Jeff

      The question itself shows bias, almost making the assumption that anything can avoid some sort of minor (aka safe) amount of pollution. Every sewer system (or even your pet!) in every city adds some minor amount of pollution to the environment but the real question is, is it a safe or reasonably small amount of pollution?

    • Thanks Jamie, TQ is a show-and-tell place for your opinion, so please feel free to weigh in.

      Considering the potential impact for jobs and the environment in Minnesota you can be assured we will continue to seek views on the proposals as this long process unfolds.

      The one thing all sides on this matter seem to agree upon, mining for copper in Minnesota is a big deal.

      Got a better idea for a TQ? I’d love to hear it. Pitch here:

  • John

    Of course not for all the reasons set forth below. Thanks for providing all of the links, Jamie, because the link to 12/5/13, the second one on your list, is the link with the channel 11 in-depth news video that shows that Tony Hayward is one of the principals behind PolyMet. He’s the former CEO of British Petroleum who mishandled the Gulf Oil Spill so badly. If anyone reading these comments hasn’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch. It’s 7 minutes long. The link is below

  • KTN

    Is there anything less than zero, because that would be my level.
    Unproven technology, shareholders who demand a positive ROI, and politicians who pander, absent any ethical desire to question what might happen. Oh, and a 500 year fund to clean up just in case – 500 years really, why just 500 years.
    It will happen regardless, the wingnuts on the right will continue to bury their heads in the sand (fracking sand) and cry for more mining, because it provides so many jobs.

    • A. Forsman

      Where exactly does it say in the SDEIS that cleanup will take 500 years? In actuality, that number came from PolyMet’s models that showed environmental controls would still work EVEN IF cleanup was still needed 500 years into the future. It was meant to show that the public should be confident the controls would work even if it took that long to clean the water. Instead, the whole 200/500 thing has been turned into a talking point that isn’t based in fact.

      • Mr. Tyler

        Mr. Forsman,

        What the SDEIS says is that the waste water seepage will be so utterly toxic that active, mechanical reverse osmosis treatment will still be needed in 200 to 500 years. PolyMet claims that will be enough. Maybe their right, but my hydrologist friends say no.

        Either way, who will pay the millions to run the pumps in the year 2250?
        My guess is, not PolyMet.

        • A. Forsman

          Mr. Tyler,

          Thank you for your response. My understanding is that there are no defined timetables around how long the water treatment will last. It certainly does not say that water treatment will be needed for 200/500 years – only that they modeled out that far to prove the controls will still work. There’s no way to determine how long the treatment will be needed until more analysis is done once the mine is operational. If you’re curious, google the Duluth News Tribunes arti

          • A. Forsman

            cle from a few weeks ago that is titled “Debunk this Polymet myth” in which the paper outlines how the 200/500 year slogans have been misreported as facts and twisted from their original meaning.

          • Mr. Tyler

            By the time the mine is operational, the horse will be out of the barn.
            If decision makers don’t ‘t know up front how long the treatment will needed, and how much it will cost, then how can you make any rational permitting decisions or calculate sufficient financial assurance?

            The SDEIS needs to give the state (and the public) that kind of information. But it doesn’t.

  • Sue de Nim

    No, and it would be great if MPR (or someone) would provide a link to how one might submit a comment by the Thursday deadline.

  • Rich in Duluth

    No, I am sure that this project will pollute the area waters. The degree of pollution will depend on how well the State oversees the mitigation procedures because a business will only do what it is required to do or what is in its own interest.

    As much as I hate the idea of any pollution to our State waters, I am still troubled by the fact that we demand these materials (copper, nickel) and yet don’t want them mined near us. Is there a place on earth, where these materials exist in economical quantities and where it is also acceptable to pollute?

    • Yanotha Twangai

      Copper and nickel deposits exist in places with much less surface water and rainfall than in northern Minnesota. Those deposits should be exploited first.

      • Rich in Duluth

        Okay, I’m sure that’s true, but what do the people living near those sites think about the idea of mining near them? If they are less sophisticated or knowledgeable than we are, is it appropriate for us, through our demand for these materials, to exploit their ignorance?

      • Scott44

        So what you are saying is “Not in my back yard”.

        • Chris

          Especially not when our backyard is the boundary waters. But really this is a tired mining company talking point as if you can apply a little guilt to get us to give up our treasured environment so you can make billions.

          • Rich in Duluth

            But, what is your answer to the point? You are certainly free to dismiss the question if you wish, but I’ve brought the question up twice, now and no one seems willing to address the point. I really expect to find more thoughtful people on this site.

          • chris

            The burden is on the pro copper nickel miner to show why we should risk polluting the boundary waters for the profits of people who don’t even live in Minnesota. You are trying to shift the burden to those who wish to protect the environment.

            The fact is the US is already the second leading producer of copper in the world, there is no shortage in the world of this type of 1%/99% deposit, and we could do much more to conserve and recycle before we should resort to putting the BWCA at risk.

          • Rich in Duluth

            Well, it would seem that since the mining company is willing to construct this mine, then there must be some demand for the material, thus there is some shortage.

            Certainly, the mining company has the burden to show why we should risk polluting our waters, and I assume the EIS does some justification (I haven’t read it). But, unless our anti-pollution regulations are strong enough to insure a proper level of mitigation or strong enough to discourage the mining because of the cost of mitigation, it’s just a word exercise.

            Sadly, with the people’s current hatred and distrust of “government” and unwillingness to pay taxes to support strong environmental rules, I doubt those who oppose it will have much say in this issue. And, that’s really too bad, because government is the only tool the people have to oppose large corporations and protect our resources.

          • A. Forsman

            Great point, Rich. The “not in my backyard” slogan is at odds with how much we’re consuming these minerals as a state, nation, and globe.

          • M

            The answer is that copper is the single most recyclable metal on the planet. But that in your copper pipe and smoke it.

  • Wayne D Samuelson

    No, of course not, even the mine developers readily admit that the ground waters will be polluted and take hundreds of years to somehow “return to normal.” The only question is how much pollution can the populace and the state tolerate and how do we do it. The mine will be depleted and the company will be out of business or reconstituted and Minnesota be left with the polluted aftermath. What a gigantic pollution clean up site for hundreds of years. Another fine example of short-term jobs and financial gain at the cost of destruction of the environment.

  • PaulJ

    We all pollute water when we go wading.. I suppose the mine will pollute, but will it be to such a great extent that the mine should not be built.

  • E. Palcich

    Yikes, Paul. How can you equate wading pool pollution with Acid Mine Drainage and heavy metal leaching. Or how could you equate cleaning up a wading pool with cleaning up a 6,000 acre mine site.
    Common sense should tell us that the mining of less than 1% metals, resulting in over 99% waste rock and tailings, cannot be done without polluting our water and destroying the wetlands, forests, and wildlife habitat that we now know and value as Superior National Forest.
    Do we really need these metals? Are you aware of any shortages in the marketplace? Did you know that the metals are slated to go to China via PolyMet’s agreement with investor Glencore? And what are we doing to increase recycling, efficiencies, and conservation, so that something is left for future generations?
    Let’s put our intellectual resources to use in creating a more sustainable economic system.

    • A. Forsman

      “Sustainable economic system” sounds awesome. Care to expand on specific ideas? The IRRRB has been studying how to diversify the Iron Range away from taconite for decades and haven’t found much at all that will stick.

      • E. Palcich

        Are you talking about the IRRRB that invested money in the now-defunct coal gasification project, in the highly subsidized but now stalled Essar Steel project, and that refunds millions of dollars back to the mining industry on a yearly basis? Or how about Magnetation, who decided to further invest in Indiana rather than on the Range.

    • PaulJ

      The point being, that the extent of the pollution doesn’t seem to be part of the discussion. Just about everything we do pollutes.

      • G

        Realistically, you’re right. Its a matter of degree.
        You can wade in the pool, or you can take a crap in it over and over.
        Copper and gold mining have historically left diarhia in just about every pool they’ve been in.

  • A. Forsman

    Yes! PolyMet will absolutely meet the standards. CEO Jon Cherry has a solid track record and comes from an environmental engineering background. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him speak first-hand about this project and he strikes me as an individual with a tremendous amount of integrity and pride in his work. I’m confident he will get the right results, the right way.

    The technologies that will be in place, as described by the DNR in the SDEIS, are sufficient to meet the current standards and are sure to improve as every other technology does over time. This is a good project at a time when it’s very much needed on the eastern Iron Range.

    • JQP

      prove it will work.
      because this is a paper promise if ever I’ve seen one.
      there are plenty of Mines out there that are currently experiencing exactly the sort of disaster that MN is anticipating.

      Set up the equipment on a real mining sized problem.
      Run it for 3 years to collect data ( on water purity, equipment reliability and function)
      Let anyone/everyone visit the site.
      Make all data public and live online – real time.
      Prove it.

  • JQP


    Regarding the PolyMet mine in particular (technology, location, past business practices, simple reality) – the type of pollution that would occur if the RO technology fails would be dangerous at low levels. Levels that the standard hard-rock mining process could not achieve – even under 100% compliance to their own best-practices specification. the geology in northern MN is very fractured and water tables are very interconnected sub-surface through cracks and fissures and…. mining activity.

    What I would be looking for is a much broader “mining industry insurance” to provide the “in perpetuity” funding required to pay for all forward commitments made by PolyMet Corporation. Basically anyone in the mining industry would be required to partner up on payments too the long-term disaster fund. Private industry profits … Private industry pays. NOT the tax payers to save their lives AFTER the mine becomes a disaster.

    The biggest problem I can foresee is that most mining companies seem to collapse and lose all of their assets about 3 days after the mine become commercially un-viable. Its always some similarly named, but legally different company ( not responsible for prior actions) … that re-opens up the mine.

  • Anonymous

    NO. Of course they will say anything they can to get the short-term profits. Long-term, we will be stuck with the ramifications for centuries to come.

  • Patrick

    Yes. There are always trade offs to everything: introduce cars and we get the most effective, efficient means of transportation man has yet created. We also get car accidents. Create the internet and we get the most efficient conveyer of information ever created. We also get internet scams. Mine for minerals and we get cheaper minerals to drive down costs of goods. We also have to tear up grass to do it..
    Those who support the mine can’t prove nothing bad will happen. Those who oppose it can’t prove anything bad will happen.

  • Scott

    I have heard that there is not a single example of a similar mine (i.e. sulfide-bearing rock) that hasn’t wound up violating pollution standards for either surface or ground water. I would love for MPR to dig into that assertion and let us know what % of these types of mines in the U.S. (say, those that started operations ten or more years ago) operate without violating water quality standards.

  • troy smith

    Yes…. why don’t all the metro environmentalists clean up their own back yards and quit OPPRESSING the people of the iron range by using your idealology to steal their jobs and deny them the chancee to feed their families…… this is America- we used to believe in a commitment to excellence and American ingenuity….now we believe in groups funded from NYC controlling the fate of an entire region…. we have technology, we have the people, just get the govt and the Marxist nonprofit army out of our way!!!!

    • M

      Its not just “metros”. I and many of my neighbors in Lake County do not support copper mining. I bet some of your neighbors feel the same way I do. You’d be surprised.

      • T

        P.S. I agree that the metros should clean up their own back yard.
        while they’re at it, they should stop prospecting for copper in our back yard.

        …. Oh yeah, you didn’t realize that Ernie Lehman, the godfather of Minnesota copper prospecting lives in Minneapolis on Lake of the Isles. And PolyMet is funded by a Swiss multinational.

        Who’s the real imperialist?

  • HVL

    No, I am not confident. Not at all.

  • philabor

    The question isn’t whether we can be 100% confident there won’t be any problems. The question is if PolyMet has made a reasonable effort to absolutely minimize risk. It’s in their best interest to do so, as the publicity, fines and restitution from a major leak would prohibitive.
    The other question is how many people complaining about mining are willing to go without metal in their life. Let’s see: copper conducts electricity to your home so you can read the internet and listen to MPR. The motors in a Prius have copper windings as does the wiring carrying current to them. The wiring in restaurants and airplanes use copper. If you’re really so against mining, put your money where your mouth is and give up metals in your life.

    • M

      The US exports twenty times more scrap copper every year than PolyMet will produce. Copper is the single most easily recyclable metal on earth. 90% or more of the copper we use every day has already been recycled at least once.
      This argument is a red herring.
      But I also challenge you: Can you live without clean water?

    • Yanotha Twangai

      On the contrary, the risk of negative publicity from an environmental disaster is irrelevant to PolyMet’s calculations. If that were to happen, they would just go bankrupt, after funding their executives’ golden parachutes.

  • Christopher Loch

    Confident? What? NO! Not confident. Here’s a funny fact, three years ago PolyMet was claiming they had brand new fangled technology, and now here in this article is “old technology”. Well which is it? I’ll you what it is, lies. There is no such thing as technology that will not leak in the natural enivironment. Take landfills: they leak. Take nuclear as we have just seen in the US recently: it leaks. If the technology in place for nuclear storage, something they put major money and research into, fails, then I have no faith whatsoever in a mining company, the ilk of which has ALWAYS polluted and then ran out of town to avoid cleanup… clean up that in this case of PolyMet is impossible. There is no true clean up from a mess like their sulfide mine will create. The only option is to filter ground water etc. FOREVER, and that still doesn’t actually clean up everything, and it disrupts the natural ecology and microbiology that play key roles in a healthy environment. And even if it did, who wants a loud and large filtration plant (or likely plants plural) chugging away in a scenic and otherwise pristene nature area? MOST IMPORTANTLY, who pays for that clean up? In all history of sulfide mining there has never been a cleanly operated mine that didn’t cause massive and unending pollution, and there has never been a mining company that didn’t run away and go bankrupt to avoid paying for their mess. So it would fall to the tax payers, and in this kind of an economy and with the tea party set to gut all environment regulations and clean ups such a “clean up” would NEVER happen. This is a really bad joke. Our leadership in MN is a joke of leadership for even considering this. Our media is a joke of media for even reporting the lies of PolyMet and their ilk without calling them out as lies, in other words fact checking. Our state’s legacy of clean water and all that goes with it is on the line here. Once its sullied, it will never be fixed and people will stop thinking of MN as a clean and pristene place to go, and they will STOP COMING here to vacation etc. Done, over, no undo possible. Sounds pretty drastic huh? Well it is.

  • Raymond Schmitz

    Couple points, is there any example of a legal structure existing for the length of time discussed in the plan. Even looking at the english East India company and similiar this would be a long time. What is the plan to avoid future legislative or court cancellation?
    By the way seems as if many are getting tired of the wining from NE Minnesota about financial ruin, over time how many tax dollars, state and federal, been spent supporting the region economy.

  • Don

    No confidence. enuf said.

  • Ross Reishus

    No, not at all. I have never met anyone in a business who wasn’t in it to make money first, and all other concerns being secondary. $$$ matters. Everything else is secondary. Otherwise they’d do something else for a livelihood. And the bigger the company, the bigger the mess, generally. AND…can anyone show me a metal mine anywhere in the world that didn’t end up being some kind of problem for the region it was located in?

  • Speed Gibson

    I think those that live in the area should make the decision, not the metrocracy down here.

    • M

      Well, I live in the area, and I say its a bad deal.

  • Ross Reishus

    Troy Smith, I’ve lived in both MN’s Iron Range in both Biwabik and Hoyt Lakes…as well as MI’s upper peninsula, and seen first hand what both open pit, and underground mines can do to the local ecology. Its not pretty. We need mines, and we need jobs, absolutely, but they absolutely need to be done right, and not half-ass as they have been in the past.

  • hambdiscus

    Please show me a mining corporation that never polluted any adjacent stream, river, pond, woodland, prairie, lake, farmland, air, public or private space. You can’t because every mining operation that has ever been has polluted something somewhere.

    Not only that, does anyone truly think this outfit will be around 200 years hence to continue the job of water treatment, dam maintenance and all that is necessary to protect our precious environment?

    I am not willing to chance the hazards a mine of this sort will present just to provide employment for a few. Those that want can do what millions of others have done when employment in their home town went to China. Pack up. move to a new town and retrain for a different livelihood. No one promised you a job for life.

    Nor is the specter of a copper shortage sufficient reason to open a new mine. There is available copper in old, now abandoned mines that given a reasonable price could be reopened and put back in service. At least those mines will only pollute already polluted ground and water.

    The permit should be denied.

  • fortybelow

    There can be no absolute guarantee that pollution will not occur. The bottom line for PolyMet is profit. If they do pollute, is there any doubt who will really foot the bill? who will suffer because PM has not kept their end of the “bargain?”

    As for suggestions that opponents should stop using precious metals if they oppose PM, it’s a matter of extracting metals safely, not about not extracting them at all.

  • Jim Gurley

    NO. The Precautionary Principle should be practiced: allow nothing to proceed until it has been exhaustively proven that it will NOT harm people, air, water, or other life. Our citizens should not have to prove that something is injurious — industry must prove it is NOT. Big corporations rule this country, and people are getting sick and tired of it.

  • Benjamin Denton

    I agree with Scott’s comment. Minnesota needs jobs in the Range. The IRRRB needs revenue from the Range. PolyMet needs a reasonable rate of return from its investment in the mining operations. There ought to be enough room for a win-win here. My gut feeling on this is that it ought to be up to PolyMet to prove beyond a reasonable doubt – not beyond a fanciful doubt – that their proposed environmental mitigation efforts are going to be up to snuff. It shouldn’t be in essence be up to the people with environmental concerns to disprove it. It also should not be up to the sole discretion of agencies/commissioners in St. Louis County only as to whether to ok it or not – but I doubt that it’s up to them only.

  • Christopher Loch

    here’s a question, are all the paid pro mining advertisements… oops I meaning “underwriting”… leaching into MPR’s opinions and coverage? perhaps the way they continue to blithely accepting mining companies lies without doing their journalistic work of fact checking etc. and calling the BS for what it is?

  • Rhoda Gilman

    No, not at all. The stakes are beyond counting and the time scale is delusional.

  • M

    I live near Silver Bay, and I’ve read much the technical guts of the plan. While it is better than the first plan, it’s still ridiculous.

    There are documented bedrock fractures all over the mine site: They wish them away.
    There is lots of seepage: They say pumps will capture more than 90% of it.
    They didn’t do any tracer studies: They say their computer models know where the water goes.

    Yeah, and I got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

    Just like a lot of stuff these days, there’s not enough real field work, and too many unvalidated computer models.

  • Steve Tripp

    No confidence whatsoever. PolyMet is there to make money, not keep the water they dump into clean. If there is sufficient, consistent, efficient and enforced oversight, then the company might be able to mine without polluting the water any more than it has to.

  • CapnCanard

    NO. Absolutely not. PolyMet has one goal and that is to make money. Keeping the environment free of damaging debris or even poisoning water tables is not an option when a corporation is trying to make a profit. PolyMet has NO CREDIBILITY.

  • Bart Hall

    Typical ignorance from a lot of the commenters, who reflect the shift from NIMBYs to BANANAs — Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone. Or for that matter “don’t build anything anywhere ever”.

    Do you enjoy electricity? That requires copper. Quite a lot of it. Brass. Bronze. Treated wood. Quite a lot more. Computers? Microwaves? Coins? Copper has been mined for the last 8,000 years and the real environmental problems tend to be rare.

    Even in the low likelihood there’s a “problem” it is not likely to be a PROBLEM, if only because the mine is remote and Minnesota has a gazillion other lakes. My first two degrees were in geology, and I can assure you there are a lot of mineral deposits whose natural leakage and leaching is worse than that of modern mines.

    • M

      You’re right, Bert.

      I think I’ll just skip down to the Berkeley Pit in Butte Montana and take a swim.

      Oh, wait. That killed the geese.

    • G

      As a geologist, I’m surprised you don’t acknowledge that copper is one of the easiest metals to recycle.

    • Larry

      Maybe they could arrange to pipe the effluent from the mine into YOUR water supply. Your comments remind me of the old adage”Rape, Pillage, and THEN burn.

  • Steve Tripp

    Not ignorance at all. And the labels are cute.

    Real accidents past and present have given people a healthy distrust of companies that promise wine and roses.

  • Sue C

    I have absolutely ZERO confidence that PolyMet (or any other corporation) would adequately protect our water. Their business is to get the minerals and get out of there. Yes, we may all enjoy electricity (as Bart Hall states), but we can’t live without clean water.

  • MikeJanarch

    I am quite confident that the Polymet mine will eventually pollute nearby bodies of water. Polymet may be a fine upstanding corporate operation (or they may not be) but mining is a land-disrupting activity and guarantees that mining, grinding and processing ore would not result in hazardous waste products getting spread around are just not plausible.

    Mined minerals, like copper, nickel, gold, and so on, are at the core of the human economy and there will be a continuing demand for more as long as the population continues to grow, and/or standards of living continue to rise.

    It isn’t clear from a world-economy point of view whether this particular mining operation should be approved now, later, or at all but it is clear in my mind, at least, that pollution will result. In an analogous situation, we all pretty much plan on having more petroleum available — never mind how much we dither about global warming. Fracking is necessary to get the oil that was once not worth the cost of extraction. Tar sands have become worthwhile now too — all part of the post peak-oil situation. Do they pollute? Absolutely. Would we all vote to leave it there if it meant say, a 50% increase in the cost of gas? Probably not.

    Lots of people plan on continuing to have adequate supplies of copper, nickel, and gold, and any other minerals they can produce at the Polymet site. Some of those people are Minnesotans. We have to decide whether we want the goodies that heavy

    • Val

      There are better ways, but I suppose we should just keep drilling and cracking until the world collapses right? Cause that’s what’s best for the economy. It’s clear you’re old, I’m sure you don’t give a shit about the environment, water, etc the rest of us are left with. So long as your precious economy is taken care of. Pssshhhhh….

    • M

      Glencore-Xtrata, the foreign multinational funding PolyMet, has an exclusive agreement to for at least the first five years of PolyMet’s production. And most of the copper demand right now is in China. So it’s entirely possible no Minnesotan will ever use the copper mined by PolyMet.

      Then, again, because copper is the single most recyclable metal on the planet, we might eventually

      But it might be smarter and just use the recycled stuff in the first place.

  • Val

    Show me one that hasn’t thus far….just one.

  • Elypsister

    On the contrary, I’m quite confident that if we are short-sighted enough to allow this to happen it will pollute our waters.

  • stacy

    No, I am not confident the mine will not pollute the water. Why not have a metal recycling program in the range, instead? Seems that could provide more sustainable jobs.

  • Chip Treen

    I think we’ll have to choose between the BWCA and mining. No one has yet set up a mine which does not pollute. The BWCA is a critical resource to the state, far more critical than copper which will have little benefit for us. Who has ever designed a system which will work for 500 years?

  • paddyb

    I have NO faith in the ability of PolyMet to protect the BWCA and surrounding waters from contamination. I have seen companies like this before; picture perfect rhetoric and then they walk away from their responsibilities via economic and/or legal means.
    Just look at mine development in Montana; Butte and the Zortman mine for examples.
    Jobs are NOT worth even a hint of potential issues. NEVER!!

    • A. Forsman

      The BWCA isn’t in the same watershed as the PolyMet project.

      • M

        Forsman, I agree with you about the location.
        But the Butte and Zortman mines are truly horrible.

  • Tom Jablonski

    Having worked for 30
    years in the environmental field, I have come to understand that environmental
    regulations are not designed to prevent industry from polluting; they are
    actually designed to permit industries to pollute. The goal of the writers of these permits is of
    course to encourage the mine operators to manage the pollutants as best they can,
    so as to not cause any immediate threats to the surrounding ecosystem out of
    which the mine will be carved. But
    pollution will occur despite our best attempts to manage it; even if there were
    no accidents, no equipment failures, or no operational negligence along the way. Therefore, as long as a mine is permitted to occur,
    it will pollute. And those pollutants
    will get into the people, plants, and animals that depend on that ecosystem for
    their life.

    The process will begin
    when the land which is to be mined is cleared off all life that exists there.
    Runoff from the now denuded and disturbed landscape will begin to be
    carried off the site by stormwater and wind, despite permit requirements that
    require the mine to “control” this runoff with best management

    The equipment used to
    clear the site, and mine the mine, will pollute the air when the fossil fuels
    that power the equipment is burned in the engines the move the equipment. The pollution laden exhausts will
    then expand into the atmosphere, where the pollutants will dissolve or be
    suspended in the moisture in the air, where eventually some of them will fall
    to the ground and run into our surface and ground waters.

    As the mining process continues, the overburden from the mine
    will be stockpiled, and when the rains and the winds contact it, sediments containing
    minerals and heavy metals that have been sealed in the earth will be exposed to
    the biosphere, and the pollutants they contain will again continue to run off
    the site, again despite any best management practices or treatment required by
    a permit. Sure these practices will
    again prevent some pollution from running off site, but no best management practice
    or treatment system is 100% effective.
    And the reality is that any treatment system used to treat the runoff
    will require more fuel to operate it, resulting in more pollutant containing exhaust
    to be released into the air.

    Eventually the mine will reach the groundwater levels. And when the natural biological and physical
    filtration system that took billions of years to be placed is removed from the
    site, some of the sediments containing minerals and heavy metals that are
    mobilized in the mining process, and some of the equipment fuel or lubrication fluids
    that spill in the mine will find their way into the groundwater, again despite
    any requirements that the permit specifies to minimize these impacts or cleanup
    the spills.

    And then when the mining process is finished, and hopefully
    the mine is “reclaimed” the metals and minerals and sulfates that will remain
    will continue to leach into to the groundwater and stormwater that contacts
    them. And again, any treatment systems
    or management practices required by a permit will only remove a portion of the
    pollution they contain, the rest will be released back into the surrounding ecosystem
    and the now permanently changed ecosystem of the “reclaimed” mine.

    So the only way to be confident that the proposed PolyMet
    mine would avoid polluting Minnesota’s water, would require the concluder to
    not understand the permitting and mining process.

    The question I have – is pollution of our ecosystem worth the
    benefits of some short-term jobs, some metals to make some more stuff, some tax
    money for the state, and potentially huge profits for the mining company?

    If your answer is “yes”,
    I would ask – is this the best we can do?

    Tom Jablonski
    Blaine, MN

  • Milo Grika

    I’m convinced that sensors will be in place to detect the inevitable leak, and damage will be mitigated.

    Until the government stops making nickels and pennies, and we find a portable energy source to replace batteries, and a viable alternative to stainless steel, this country’s demand for nickel and copper is not going to lessen.

    • Annie

      Could you please describe these sensors? Thanks.

    • M

      How will it be mitigated?
      I don’t see any sensors mentioned in the SDEIS. What page are they mentioned on?

  • Larry

    I have little faith in the elected officials of MN to have a vision of the future that extends beyond their next election. For at least 5 years now the mantra has been Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Not one of them can see beyond the present. Recycling of metals is a far better way to develop new supplies. If necessary, mine some of the old landfills which have literally tons of discarded metals (including plenty of copper) in them. At least those landfills aren’t located in Minnesota’s prime Wilderness area that attracts thousands of tourists to the state annually.

  • Jerry

    I have no faith at all that polymet will avoid contaminating our water. Just look at their record. They have a 100% record of polluting every place they have ever operated. Then they abandon it.

  • Oscar Harrison

    The general quality of the comments so far we are getting behind of science education compared to the rest of the world.

    Copper is once of the most recyclable materials, unfortunately you cannot both use a material and recycle it at the same time, hence the need to obtain more.

    People talk about 6000 acres like it is a huge number, Minnesota’s area is ~54,000,000 acres….

    I have seen complaints about the destruction of moose habitat, ect. It has been statistically shown that large herbivores actually show population boosts near mining projects (Woodland Caribou near tar sands projects) because the human presence affects wolves, just like all the “citiots” out camping disturb the wolves.

    The question is very loaded, but even more loaded is the misinformation being spread by the environmental side. The 500 year figure is not in the EIS, it was in the draft EIS and removed because it was misleading. The positive hotel numbers from the Ely area showing a booming tourist industry were actually from during the Pagami Creek fire when the hotels were full of fire-fighters. The list goes on and on….

    If your wondering about my qualification to comment on this, I am a senior geology student. I have seen the cores, and the data from the cores. I know what minerals are involved. I have toured sulfide mines and know what the effects of mining are. I also know the nature of the bedrock and that the material under the mine site is largely non-porous and inhibits water flow. How do I know this? Because it is being built on a stable craton, at the margin between a massive layed mafic intrusion and an existing continental core. You do not get much more stable geology than that on the planet.

    • M

      Sure, but it well known to geologists working in the area that there are numerous fractures and faults under neath the project area.

      Look at the Minnesota Geological Survey Maps Bedrock geology maps for the Babbitt quadrangles.

      Stable, yes. Leaky? You bet!

  • Mark

    Yes I’m confident Polymet will employ the most stringent policies to achieve the cleanest results possible.
    Btw this reply was made possible from digital technologies that require continued mining of natural resources such as copper, gold, iron ore, etc.

    • Ellie

      Ok, so did you use your digital technologies to actually review the entire SDEIS and accompanying documents in order to make your statement of confidence?

      • Mark

        Yes, then I used my iphone which contains copper, gold, tin, & other metals to submit this reply,
        Before that, I hopped in my natural resource laden vehicle to goto silver bay mines last week.

        Elitist, liberal, activists would do well to remember that many people rely on the mines for their livelihoods either directly or indirectly. And those very same activists utilize the many natural resources the decry everyday.

        Hypocrisy is not a stable platform to protest from

        • M

          Yes, its true that many people work at the *taconite* mines.
          Yes, its true that we all use natural resources.

          But pointing out that extracting one natural resource (copper) in a certain way will foul up a bunch of other natural resources (water, fish) when there are other alternatives (recycling, underground mining, etc.) is not hypocrisy. Its recognizing reality.

          • M

            P.S. Some of my good friends work at the taconite mines. They are good people, and I’d like to see them keep working.
            But that doesn’t change the fact that some of the taconite plants are out of compliance with water quality.
            If we were to focus on getting the existing plants to cleanup their messes, instead of going whole hog into a riskier form of mining, we would create some more pretty good-paying jobs while also doing right by our kids.

  • greenstone swallow

    There are very few pristine wilderness areas remaining. The Boundary Waters is one of the most unique, with abundant wildlife, clean waters, and relative lack of pollution. Must we despoil all the natural places on earth so that every grade-schooler can have digital pocket devices. Sorry, but it is way past time to consider long range views about our survival as a species and the quality of life and environment we want our descendants to inherit. Until the mining industry and come up with a better plan, we are just giving too much away — the safety and health of our lands, their inhabitants and our people.

    • M

      I agree with you that we need to look long term and that PolyMet is a bad deal, but the truth is that the PolyMet project is NOT in the Boundary Waters watershed.
      Please educate yourself so that you can be a more effective advocate.

  • Michael

    I am confident that Polymet will go bankrupt within a year after the mine stops producing ore, leaving the taxpayers the bill to clean up the mine for 200 years. The shortsighted view the State has taken is appalling, only considering best case scenarios. The workers to be employed by the mine are too vulnerable to make rational decisions about something that will effect their area long after they move away or die. The company should be forced to put into escrow twice the projected amount for cleanup for the 200 year time span before they declare bankruptcy, and be reimbursed any residuals after 200 years have passed.

  • Cathy Wright

    Many speak of the 500 years of constant clean up after they are gone. I speak to the present and the state of the toxic open pit that they plan to pile more toxic waste into. Our weather patterns are changing, getting more extreme, as we have seen. PolyMet has not proposed to insure that the rains that will fall for more than three days at enormous rates, won’t catastrophically pour all those toxins, major poison, into our Lake Superior water shed. If a flood occurs even once, there is no turning back, we will have destroyed our lakes and rivers. Countless wildlife and we humans will suffer greatly. That is a possibility right off the bat.

  • Oscar Harrison

    Ok, lets try this again, the 500 year data is NOT IN TH EIS because it is a misleading number based on the amount of time it would take a water leak to progress through the substrate, not the amount of time the pollution is present. The project is not in the Boundary Waters, and is not in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. The money is put in escrow ahead of time so that even if the company goes bankrupt the day they stop mining the clean up is still paid for. Keep them coming, I love countering people without proper science training.

    On a side note, I am posting as my cat because the MPR page and adblock do not get along.

    • KTN

      Of course its in the watershed. Where else will this drain, oh right, into Superior, but that’s not a problem either right.
      Polymet has no experience with this type of mine, and their conglomerate owner has a less than praiseworthy record in this type of mining- as in they have not been able to mine without destroying the surrounding land and watersheds.
      If they have such a comprehensive plan to deal with leakage, why do they have an escrow account at all – you would think that they could just tell us “trust us” we are only looking out for our shareho, oops, I mean the public.

      • M


        Harrison is correct that PolyMet is not in the BWCAW watershed. But it is in the St. Louis River / Lake Superior watershed.

        And Elli is quite correct that the 500 years is in the SDEIS. And it is most certainly NOT the time it will take to move through the substrate. It is the length of the model run. And the model run required reverse osmosis treatment and more than 90% seepage capture during its entire 500 year length to comply with water quality standards.

        • chris

          Incorrect, the books have been cooked. The Hundred Mile Swamp drains both to the Partridge River and to Langley Creek. Langley Creek drains towards the BWCA not Lake Superior.

          • M

            Interesting point. Do you have a map showing that?
            I’d love to see it!

          • Chris

            Google Langley creek polymet

    • Ellie

      The 500 years is mentioned. Check the SDEIS, p. ES-24. Also check the graphs from the Water Modeling Data Package Volume 1 and 2, PolyMet 2013i and 2013j.

  • Betty Given

    I have great confidence in Polymet. They are using the newest technology. We need these minerals. I know they are much better stewards of the earth than any company in China or any other country. Face it. Everything we use is grown or mined. This technology allows us to mine our own resources and not have to depend on China or other countries.
    One additional point to consider- how many “environtmentalists” use computers or drive “green” cars? They are consuming the very minerals they would deny the rest of us to have access to.
    We need these minerals.

    • T

      1) PolyMet has an agreement with their foreign financier, Glencore-Xtrata, to sell Glencore at least their first 5 years of production. That stuff will be processed in Canada (PolyMet will only be producing concentrate). And then it will be sold on the world market to whoever, probably the Chinese.
      2) The only reason they are attempting to use new technology is because people have put so much pressure on them. They didn’t put reverse osmosis in their first plan (DEIS).
      3) Copper is the single most recyclable metal on earth. The USGS estimates that more than 90% of the small amount of copper in the computer I am typing on was from recycled sources.
      4) US Copper consumption has been relatively flat for the last 20 years. Cell phones use less copper than land lines – no copper wire stretched for miles! Maybe the Chinese need our copper to industrialize. But they already import much of our scrap anyway.

  • greenstone swallow

    I stand corrected. Duluth Metal’s Twin Metals partner is planning an enormous mine near Ely which threatens the Boundary Waters. Duluth/Twin Metals is next in line to push their agenda, with the promise of jobs and economic boon for all. (Right.) Until the day when the mine has been worked, then abandoned to rust, toxic runoff, unemployment, and blight. The promise of jobs makes people forget the tragic history of mining. I’m not saying NIMBY or BANANAS, just let’s not be blinded to the truth. We must demand better answers to the thoughtful issues raised by the doubters here.

  • The project offers 50 years’ worth of production at a cost of 500 years’ worth of cleanup. No mining company will honor that 500-year commitment; so; in effect; the Iron Range is creating permanent environmental damage to get themselves new 4-wheelers. Is there any new news?

    • A. Forsman

      A. The project is planned for 20 years. B. There’s no factual support to the claim that cleanup will last 500 years – see below. C. Your comment about Iron Rangers is illogical and offensive. I’d invite you, Mr. Shepard, to come visit the Iron Range for yourself to see how this project is needed to improve the lives of thousands of people.

      • M

        I agree with you that the comment about Rangers is completely offensive.
        That said, the SDEIS is very clear that the project would require long-term cleanup. The models assume active reverse osmosis water treatment for 200-500 years. Under those and other model assumptions, they predict few water quality violations. (But there are a few).

        But the waste water is predicted to be extremely toxic before capture treatment. No wonder they didn’t model the project without active treatment.

  • cww

    I’ll concede that I have never seen mining without environmental damage Whether it’s mountains of tailings on the range or the bright blue runoff ponds I saw near Baxter in AZ. But our lifestyle comes to a screeching halt without copper. The environment uber alles attitude is decietful and delusional, as it _is_ NIMBY. Please get me my latest i-phone, but my environment is too pristine for that dirty business, let’s damage yours. On the other side, yes, there are people who would strip mine for copper and leave the land bare and wasted. It would seem the only honest and responsible thing to do is seek for the best way to get our copper with the least damage to the environment. I think that’s what DNR is trying to do. Can we trust them to do that? We have to, the extremists on either side offer no pragmatic solution, It’s stone age or moonscape.

    • M

      Sure, but DNR and MPCA don’t have a great record enforcing our water quality standards at existing taconite mines.

      And it’s not just about environment uber alles. Its about human health.
      If the DNR gets this wrong, the citizens of Hoyt Lakes will be stuck with toxic drinking water. That’s not just about the environment, its about our communities.

  • Carol

    I do not believe that we have made a serious effort to recapture and recycle copper. Yes, we all pollute and we all consume minerals. We can work on consuming less before we risk polluting our water supply. Which is more important, your cell phone or your water supply?

  • Nancy

    Are you kidding? Now really! No, I do not believe Polymet. Look at their track record.
    Wake up Minnesota!

    • A. Forsman

      What exactly is their track record beyond a first failed attempt at the EIS which has been improved?

      • M

        Exactly. None.
        But their major financier, Glencore-Xstrata, has an awesome track record.
        They walked away from a smelter in France, leaving workers unpaid and the taxpayers with a huge cleanup bill.
        They were linked to anti-union violence in both Africa and Latin America.
        And, in their infinite wisdom, they hired Tony “I want my life back” Hayward of BP-oil split fame as their Vice President of “Safety”.

  • Oscar Harrison

    Copper is one of the most recycled metals out there, just look at all of the meth heads who are stripping wiring out of houses and computer recycling businesses out there. Do you think all of these devices go into the land fill these days? No, they get recycled. Despite this there is still a shortage, enough so that the price of copper has increased several hundred percent in the last twenty years.

    Ironically I have paid for considerable portions of my college tuition by recycling copper and electronics. When you are doing things legally and above board you can get a pretty penny for a truck load of circuit boards.

    Oh, and Polymet is a startup, they don’t have a track record. That is the nature of a startup.

    Also, you speak about “working to consume less”, so because you want to save 10 square miles of forest you are going to torpedo the entire US economy? The nature of the United States economic system is based on consumerism, it is hard to turn a ship that size back around. I suppose we could have it your way though, there is a lot of copper we can recycle out of things like the Statue of Liberty. We could force everyone to replace all of their house wiring with aluminum, and all of their plumbing with plastic and that would stretch the copper supply for quite a while. It would cost billions and billions of dollars. But at least we would not have to build a mine.

    • M

      Actually, if you adjust for inflation, copper prices haven’t risen that much over the past 20 years.

      To quote

      In real terms, copper
      has spent the past 50 years oscillating between $1 and $5. There
      appears to be no meaningful difference between the inflation-fueled
      rise of 2003-2008 and the inflation-fueled rise of the 1970s.

      • M

        Admittedly, though, China’s rapid development has increased demand
        somewhat. But once they’ve built up their infrastructure, demand will
        abate again.
        And, of course, there are rumors circulating that China is stockpiling copper to manipulate the price and secure their supply.

        I’m not sure I want to permanently ruin Hoyt Lakes drinking water so that the Chinese can stockpile copper.

      • M

        However, that website uses a questionable statistical approach.

        A more accurate graph of inflation adjusted copper prices (using the CPI) can be found at:

    • M

      Actually, the term of art in the industry is “junior mining partner”, not “Start up”.
      It’s a fancy word for puppet company.
      Swiss multinational Glencore Xstrata is pulling the strings and paying the bills.

      And PolyMet is the shell that allows Glencore to not get on the permit.

    • Willmerres

      That’s a bit of an overstatement there Mr. Harrison. The watershed in question is a bit more than 10 square miles. And to say that saving those “10 square miles of forest” would “torpedo the ENTIRE US economy” is out of line. Hyperbole does not advance a thoughtful discussion.

  • Doubting Thomas

    No. I am all for jobs for the iron range and tax revenues for the State but hard rock copper sulfate mining is different than mining for iron ore and taconite. The sulfates interact with oxygen to leach sulfuric acid and other bi-products including mercury and other toxic heavy metals. To compound matters, the site is in the heart of an environmentally sensitive area because of the water resources in our State. There is surface water in the form of wetlands, lakes, streams, and rivers and there are aquifers and veins of ground water below the surface. There are harsh winters and rapid spring thaws with severe spring run off. There are also severe thunderstorms with torrential rains like the one Duluth experienced last year or the year before. The site sits in the watershed for St. Louis River so if the proposed systems fail for any reason, these toxic bi-products will end up in the St. Louis River, the beautiful estuary that Duluth has worked so hard to clean up over the last 40 years, and our pristine and beautiful Lake Superior. I am not willing to take that risk and no amount of FA can eliminate the risk or clean up the environmental mess this mine could create once that Genie is out of the bottle. For those that are confident, I would remind them that the engineers at Tokyo Electric Power were convinced that they could safely build and operate a nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, next to the ocean in an area prone to earth quakes and tsunamis. On March 11, 2011, there was a catastrophic failure at that power plant due to an earth quake and a subsequent tsunami. Three years and over a $100 BILLION DOLLARS later, there is no end to the clean up in sight and the radioactively contaminated water continues to leach into the ocean and enter the food chain.

  • M M Smith

    No confidence at all. Non whatsoever. There are no mining projects that do not pollute. No hedging on my answer. A loud NO. 500 year clean up??? Seriously. Have we gone mad? Money does not bring back dead species, rice, etc……

  • Sure of this

    Are you kidding? That place will leak if it is built. The only questions are when and how much.

  • Sarah

    No, I am not confident at all. In my opinion there is absolutely no chance Polymet will avoid polluting our water in Minnesota.

  • Gregory Clifford

    I wish you’d ask Honeywell how to set it up right the first time. The modern company inherited massive “legacy” remedial problems from mercury production out east, and they’d likely be able to say what is best practice going in.

  • brook

    History shows that money speaks and our natural resources see the effects of bowing to the all mighty $.

  • Oscar Harrison

    Ok, I really should not argue with people that don’t have a clue about these things, but….

    The banded iron formation in Minnesota (you know the one we have been mining for 100+ years) is intermixed with iron sulfides…

    The glaciers took sulfides from the surface rocks, ground them up, mixed them with water, and scattered them all over the state…. Somehow the trees still grow.

    I know that it is hard to believe but the problems you have created in your mind as worst case scenarios do not line up with the realities of the project. Even the Twin Metals project has a solution for waste rock, since they are building an underground mine, they are going to use the waste rock to backfill the mine….

    Which of course will mean that there will not be the huge piles of waste you fear.

    In the Polymet case, the majority of the rock that will be being set aside is going to be overburden. Also known as the stuff with no sulfides, and hence, no metallic materials in it. The processing of the ore REMOVES THE SULFIDES. It seems that the metals and the sulfides form a convenient package, and when you remove one, you get the other. Hence the vast majority of the sulfides is going to be removed from the processed ore as well.

    This isn’t the “good old days” when you could smelt ore by taking a pile of ore and letting it simmer over an open fire for a few weeks. There are laws and environmental controls in place. And we are not talking about 20, 30, or 50 years of mining. The total size of the deposit (the majority of which is far underground) would take a hundred to hundreds of years to mine. Generations upon generations of high paying mining jobs for Minnesota. The biggest 500 year legacy that this mining is likely to have is it may still be going on at that point.

    • M

      A) Yes, the banded iron formation that’s been mined for 100 years IS mixed with sulfides, albeit at much lower concentrations. And that why, among other things, most of the taconite plants and waste rock heaps on the east range don’t meet water quality standards. For example, the LTV tailings basin has been violating standards for more than a decade. And that pile, that was designed to leak so it wouldn’t collapse, is what Poly Met wants to dump its tailings on.

    • M

      B) We are talking about 20 years of mining at PolyMet.
      The truth is that the economically viable mineralized zone is only so big at the PolyMet mine site. PolyMet agreed to refill the east and central pits with the worst waste rock, because the mineralization was limited.
      They want to avoid filling the west pit, because they might possibly want to expand there at some time in the future, if it becomes viable.

      The difficulty in mining the Duluth Complex for copper is that the copper concentrations are low to begin with, mostly <1%, and the deposit is quite variable. So many areas just aren't economically viable.

      But the need for treatment at PolyMet will be very long term.

    • M

      C) You are correct that Duluth Metals is planning an underground mine.
      And that means it may have a lower level of impact.

      BUT, you can’t fill back fill a particular zone of the mine while your still mining. So the rock will have to sit somewhere for a while.

      AND, when you take rock and blast it up, the volume increases (more air spaces). So I find it hard to believe Duluth Metals will be able to fit all their waste rock back in the mine when their done, especially given the low copper concentration. The expansion of volume is likely to be much larger than 1-2% (accounting for the sulfides bound to the copper.

      So its not guaranteed that an underground copper-sulfide mine won’t massively pollute. But the risk is somewhat lower.

      • Polymet Shareholder

        She’s got you there, Oscar. Duluth Metals, interviewed in a recent News Tribune report, plans to ship high-sulfite ore to an off-site landfill. I am getting old (chuckle) – but if memory still serves, I don’t recall any mention of back-filling.

    • M

      D) Much (but not all) of the waste rock at the PolyMet mine site is part of the same general type of rock as the upper-mineralized zone – and that formation rises to the surface. So most of the waste rock will not be “overburden” – it will just have lower, non-economically viable, concentrations of copper and sulfides. (But, as SDEIS acknowledges on pg. 3.45, it will have potential to leach heavy metals).
      See for example, figure 3.2-10 in the SDEIS. (Below)

      • M

        figure 3.2-10 in the SDEIS

    • M

      So, do you still think I have no clue?

      I challenge you to refute my comments with references from the SDEIS or other relevant scientific publications.

      • Polymet Shareholder

        Google “Processing Copper Ore” and you’ll find a Wiki site that gives details.
        Oscar makes a good point about the “good?” old days. I’m glad Polymet decided to go with a hydrometallurgical processing plant in Phase II as opposed to smelting operations. Much cleaner, safer and uses less energy. We all can recall pictures of Pittsburgh processing plants belching pollutants into our atmosphere. Even with scrubbers now required by the USEPA, few would want a smelting plant here!

  • Michelle Ronning

    The tailings contain the sulfides. They will remain forever, promoting the formation of methyl mercury. This will all end up in the ground water and into the streams contaminating the water supply. One out of ten children along the north shore already have elevated levels of mercury in their bloodstream.
    Stop pitting the environment against employment. We all want jobs. Safe, sustainable jobs.

  • Polymet Shareholder

    Yes. I am confident that any pollutants that manage to migrate off-site, whether by air or water, will remain within safe standards. The Northmet plan details how the low-percentage (by ton) of high-sulfite ore will be re-buried and rendered harmless while low-sulfite tailing will be mixed with limestone to neutralize acid and become gypsum – which many folks use on their lawns. Just as coal has been used for many years to filter water by absorbing impurities, the tailings basins are engineered to absorb pollutants. If Polymet does shut down all mining and processing operations in twenty years, mechanical treatment (reverse-osmosis) will only be needed for a few decades, and will be replaced by non-mechanical filtration that occurs naturally when low-level and no-sulfite tailings bind to the minerals (much like coal absorption). I think mother nature, through wind and water erosion of sulfides, will pollute more lakes and waters than Polymet ever will.

    • Jody Scott Olson

      “I think mother nature, through wind and water erosion of sulfides, will pollute more lakes and waters than Polymet ever will.” Wow, there’s the stupid quote of the week. With this kind of leadership I’m sincerely reassured that the health and safety of the community is in good hands. Unbelievable.

      • Polymet Shareholder

        Cover your ears (eyes) if you want, but the project plans will reduce pollution in those waterways. First, the plan is to divert 5% of the Embarrass River water (much better than drilling wells and using drinking water supplies like they did in Hibbing), then use river water for mine processing, treat it (reverse-osmosis) and reintroduce it to the waterways via the Partridge River – the net effect being to reduce water pollution.
        Various meters have been in place to measure the existing Annual Sulfate Loading Rates in the local waterways adjacent to the project. Sulfides have been present for centuries as a natural by-product of erosion, as well as non-natural means such as exposing sulfites through taconite mining.
        PM = Metering Site / Annual Sulfate Load Rates (P-90):
        Existing vs. Project:
        PM-11 (Unnamed creek) Continue Existing: 400 tons
        PM-11 (Unnamed creek) with Polymet Project: 50 tons
        PM-19 (Trimble Creek) Continue Existing: 820 tons
        PM-19 (Trimble Creek) with Polymet Project: 80 tons
        PM-13 (Embarrass River) Continue Existing: 200 tons
        PM-13 (Embarrass River) with Polymet Project: 135 tons
        Similar effects with mercury are available in the SDEIS.
        During my youth, I fished several naturally – polluted lakes in the boundary waters that have NO MINES nearby or feeding into the river. You could stand in water up to your knees and not see your feet. Mother Nature does pollute – it’s a fact. Volcanoes, are obvious. Sulfates… less so.

        • Jody Scott Olson

          Can’t wait for suit against shareholders…

        • The Fightin’ Forester

          Citation, please?
          Assuming these numbers are from the SDES, how can we rely on a water and pollution transport model that:
          A) Does not account for documented bedrock faults that are likely to carry pollution past catchment devices.
          B) Assumes >90% collection of groundwater through drain tiles and pumping, a number that is not supported by any documentation, and disagrees with the real field experience of many hydrologists.
          C) Is based on an incorrect base flow for the Partridge River, as a DNR technical memo clearly admits.

          • The Fightin’ Forester

            Also, the sulfate loadings in the creeks near the LTV tailings basin are not natural. They are from large amounts of seepage coming off the tailings basin, which has been violating water quality standards for over a decade with narry a word from the MPCA some folks started to hold their feet to the fire.

            So much for enforcement, eh?

          • Polymet Sharehold

            The LTV tailings basin are iron ore tailings, not sulfite ore. I think your assumption about the former LTV basin being the current major source of sulfates in the Embarrass and Partridge Rivers is incorrect. Even if it were true, water treatment would clean up sulfate pollution left by a prior mining company and 10% seepage would fall well within standards. The net is less sulfate and mercury in our waterways. This isn’t theory. The pilot RO plant Polymet has been testing for five years is conclusive.

          • Polymet Shareholder

            Citation: The assistant director of the DNR (Colvin, I think) published information that the flow models were tested using a rate of 2.6cfm with little change in the migration of the mining effects to the waterways. That’s well above the 1.3cfm-1.8cfm measured at the new station, which wasn’t installed until after the modeling was done. This was published in MPR shortly after this issue came up – you should be able to find the article in their archive. I do think it would be prudent for the Co-Leads to publish at least 1 flow model with the 1.8cfm to demonstrate. I don’t think every single test would need to be redone if Colvin’s remark proves accurate.
            Your turn: please cite those hydrologists, please.

    • M

      If wetlands will be effective treatment, than why didn’t PolyMet provide data for that in the SDEIS? Why didn’t the SDEIS model the replacement of the reverse osmosis treatment with wetlands?

      The reason is that, as the SDEIS states, wetland remediation for this level of pollution haven’t yet been developed. Wetland treatment efficacy for this is purely speculative at this point.

      Also, I’ll point out that studies have shown that waste rock sorting by sulfide content has been fairly ineffective at the production scale in the past.

      AND, when you add lime to the rock, other toxic heavy metals are released.

      • Polymet Shareholder

        Thank you for your insight. I have also considered the sorting of the waste rock by levels of acidity does seem problematic. Even though I support the project, I realize that the SDEIS, in several instances, refers to sources of information the Co-Lead agencies believe is readily available and could/should more specific. I would like to see specific information about how the sorting process works.
        You can imagine that I get my head verbally “bit off” from time to time. Your well-reasoned response added value to the discussion and I appreciated it.

  • Leo_Pusateri

    Yes, I am confident that Polymet will take pains to ensure that they remain within safe guidelines. They are under the microscope, and will no doubt bend over backward to ensure that their operations do not harm the environment.

    To block this is to block opportunity for a depressed area to FINALLY get back on its feet.

    Northern Minnesota NEEDS Polymet.

    • Jody Scott Olson

      Jobs at what cost? This is short-sighted. Nobody NEEDs PolyMet.

    • M

      Then will bend over backward, of course, until they get their permits and variances. Then they will do mostly what they want, and unless citizens speak up, they will get away with it, just as the taconite companies have gotten away with violating water quality standards for the last 30 years.

      Or until their Swiss-based multinational backer, Glencore-Xtrata, decides to pull the plug and walk away because copper prices tank, and leave the folks in Hoyt Lakes with one hell of a mess.

  • Chris Norbury

    No, not confident at all.

  • Jody Scott Olson

    Looks like PolyMet paid people to speak on their behalf. Of course they’ll pollute and contaminate. Its a bargain with the devil; needed jobs or a super fund site. I say Pass on PolyMet

  • Redleg

    Reverse Osmosis treatment systems will treat the
    wastewater/leachate as designed, but these systems are very expensive to
    operate and maintain. I think this would
    only operate as long as the mine was profitable. After that the treatment plant
    would sit idle until someone funded it (that would be us taxpayers, if anyone). A much simpler treatment system should be
    considered as a backup.

    One big picture thing that most people are unaware of is how
    this relates to global warming/greenhouse gas emissions. In order to construct solar-, wind-, wave-,
    etc. energy technology copper, nickel, silver, and platinum must be produced. Less oil, gas, and coal requires more mining
    and some chemical intensive electronics recycling that will produce pollution.

    • Tyler

      Sure, but the magnitude of the pollution and energy use from recycling copper if far less (estimates say maybe 10% or less) of that required for copper recycling.

      I think that we should in-source copper recycling, as much of it is done in the developing world where they can get kids to do it for 10 cents an hour and no safety gear.

  • I’m confident that the PolyMet mine WILL pollute. This is based on history and history shows that every single sulfide mine in the world pollutes. The company keeps claiming that their technology isn’t new and is proven, but they can’t point to a single mine where it actually works. Not only that, we’ve learned that the MPCA and the EPA are now allowing exception to the Clean Water Act for area mines. How can trust those regulatory agencies to hold PolyMet to the standards if they won’t do it with the iron mines in the area?

    In the above article you quote a company official spinning their operation by saying, “The cut off wall that we’re putting in, that will go all the way down to bedrock.” I live in this area and know that the bedrock is fractured. As an example, there’s a river that splits into two parts; half the river goes over a waterfall and continues downstream and half the river goes into a hole called Devil’s Kettle and disappears. Despite extensive studies, no one has figured out where that water goes. The plan is to build a wall, but there is no plan to inspect all the area’s bedrock for fractures similar to the Devil’s Kettle. And the Devil is in the details, fractures in the bedrock will create pollution.

    If we approve this mine, we’re creating a future superfund site that Minnesotan taxpayers will be trying to clean up for the next 500 years — 480 years longer than the mine will be producing.

  • mike

    I am confident they will pollute too. Maybe send the managers and owners to jail until the mess is cleaned up . YEARS in JAIL when they pollute.

  • Leo_Pusateri

    Tell that to the people on the Iron Range who have been mired in poverty for the past four decades.

    I swear that if ANYTHING came along with promise for prosperity the liberals (who are probably gainfully employed themselves) would find a way to nix it.

    • Chris

      and after the last four decades of poverty, you still believe the promises of mining companies?

    • M

      Sure. And the folks in Hoyt Lakes who don’t get jobs at PolyMet will be paying hirer prices to get water trucked in, because the municipal stuff is completely poisoned beyond treatment. Or paying high medical bills to treat the cancers they develop from drinking the water.

      Not to mention the bills for the folks working at PolyMet who develop mesothelioma, because the company decided to vent the air back into the processing plant to save money. There is asbestos-like amphibole and serpentine fibers in that rock, folks.

      Don’t believe me? Its in the SDEIS.

  • maia cavelli

    It should be a matter of the proponents’ confidence, and not the public’s. Let them put their money where their mouth is by fully indemnifying the public against all possible loss, with long term bonds/insurance that have clear and readily accessible criteria for awarding insurance proceeds so that the public isn’t mired in long, drawn out legal proceedings. If the risk is that minimal, they can persuade the bonding agents more easily than the public, and the cost for such minimal risk should be negligible (if their facts and assumptions are persuasive).

  • rst1317

    How will this mining compare to the damage we’ve done to the environment by adding ethanol to the fuel mix we burn in our cars?

  • Sergeant Major

    Personally I have lost all trust and confidence in the loud pronouncements of any corporation which issues a favourable environmental impact statement. The track record of corporations and the validity of their self generated enviromental impact statements is less than stunning.

  • Lauri Barber

    Personally, I don’t know PolyMet well enough to trust or not trust. However, Northern Minnesota desperately needs an economy boost. While the Twin Cities average income in 2002 was $44,000, the Iron Range’s average income was below poverty level at $17,000. Houses sell in some towns for $500!!! Most income comes from government jobs, such as teaching, DNR, and police. People are leaving in droves for the Cities or the gas fields. Families are being torn apart by long-distance relationships. The State Legislature has many more reps from non-Northern MN areas, so this area is often ignored or taxed for ridiculous things, such as a Stadium that few can afford or will even see! I have lived in both parts and HATE the term ‘out-staters’. We live in MN but are treated as if we are foreigners!

    • M

      I agree. We northerners sure do get the short end of the stick.

      And I sure don’t like people from far away telling me what to do, whether its
      folks from the twin cities, or overseas multinational corporations like Glencore-Xstrata, who is financing PolyMet.

  • GeoCWeyer

    I think it is too risky. I know many of the “locals” want it but the threat of the polluting the deep ground water is just not worth the risk. This is without considering the damage that could be done to the surface water and vegetation by acid rain and runoff.

    • M

      Not all locals want it, either. I know one long-time Hoyt Lakes resident who plans to move away if this goes through.

  • Lauri Barber

    I like the indemnity or bond idea. When the Iron Range’s mines started to flood Bovey, MN or Blandin Paper Company wanted to build soil using their paper sludge, it would have been nice that US Steel and other mine companies had a reserve to complete these projects. However, it is clear that government cannot be trusted to ‘know’ the facts since they said that Blandin would need to put 500 feet of sludge to make soil on the iron ore piles when pH is actually a geometric measure and only 4-12 inches of sludge would have been needed to make soil. How valuable would that be to Northern Minnesota to make new land for them?

    • M

      Yeah, I think if PolyMet is to get any permits, they AND their foreign “senior mining partners” should have put their names on the permit AND put several hundred million dollars in a separate, independent trust fund up front.
      I mean, Arizona (which is certainly very mining friendly) has recently increased their mining financial assurance rates to a minimum of $200 million or so. And that’s a pretty conservative state.

      That said, I don’t think it should be permitted, because there is no way to guarantee long-term reverse osmosis treatment, whether it be 200 or 500 years. Money is good, but that length of time is longer than the state of Minnesota has existed.

  • Barbara L.

    we have one of the world’s largest deposits of copper and nickel not being mined because of scare tactics by the environmental lobby. These metals are in high demand and are essential for smartphones and appliances and electrical power plants–.the latest technologies currently allow environmentally sound mining all around the world: S. Africa, Sweden, Canada.

    • M

      Not scare tactics. Hard science and experience.
      Show me the examples where the technologies PolyMet is proposing to use have been successful at production scale, right in the middle of a wetland.
      I read the SDEIS, and I didn’t find em’. Show me where they are.

  • Tom Thompson

    I have no confidence that Polymet will avoid polluting Minnesota Waters. I often hear that Minnesota has tough regulations and that everything will be OK. Regulations don’t stop pollution. Mining companies are the ones that pollute anyway. This is about them not MN laws and regulations. There has yet to be sulfide mining that did not pollute. What this says is that if there were not regulations, mining companies would pollute even more than they do. If there was a mining company, who on their own, despite weak laws somewhere else, could show that they had a sulfide mining operation that successfully mined without polluting, then I would consider answering this question in the affirmative. Unfortunately, there isn’t such a company.

  • JSW

    Do I think PolyMet will avoid polluting MN waters?
    I don’t think PolyMet will pollute MN waters any more than the drug users urinating in toilets are currently polluting them.
    I have no confidence that more regulations will stop anything other than progress in MN through employment and growth. But of course, the tree huggers won’t stop until they have everyone under their control and living in cities surrounded by walls with armed guards and concertina wire.

    • The Fightin’ Forester

      Based on what evidence do you think PolyMet’s pollution won’t be significant?

      And, by the way, I set up timber sales for a living, and I still think this is a bad deal. Tree hugger I ain’t.
      And I know loggers who are pretty worried, too.

      • JSW

        I’m not saying they won’t be ‘significant’- though I doubt they’ll be any where near as ‘significant’ as anyone want us to believe- what I am saying is that the amount of water pollution due to drug use- both legal and illegal- is just as significant, but there’s no one whining about stopping the use of drugs.
        And I am adamant about liberals/aka ‘tree huggers’ won’t stop with growing control of our lives until we’re fenced inside a compound under complete government control.

        • Dani95

          First of all, what in the world does the comparison of drug use have anything to do with the pollution of waters of MN? Completely irrelevant. Also, these “tree huggers” you speak of, usually want nothing to do with government and want to be free of it. They just don’t want our nature destroyed. They are typically against government and big businesses controlling us all. So again, you seem a little off base.

          I’m guessing you have never been to Boundary Waters and do not understand the beauty of our earth. We are literally destroying it for our own selfish and wasteful lifestyles. PolyMet WILL SIGNIFICANTLY pollute our waters, which will impact so much more from there including even our drinking waters. And it will continue to pollute for 500+ years. There has NEVER been a sulfide mine to not pollute, and as written in this article, it’s not like this is new technology. This will also screw over our state in the end economically as well. Because most of these mines claim bankruptcy and run away, leaving the states tax payers with the bill for clean up that is basically insurmountable.

          Honestly in the end, this has nothing to do with drug users or “tree huggers” and I have no idea where you are getting off on all that. Try to read and do some research sometime instead of sticking some basic opinions you made up in your own mind.

  • Mark Carter

    The world needs the resources. Unless you want to set up a colony on Mars, we have to mine for our raw materials. Life is not risk free, and we should not expect it to be. Being continually 100% risk free is totally unsustainable.

    If the retaining wall goes to bed rock their is minimal risk of leakage. The Winnipeg Red River diversion structure is in bed rock, and has held back the Red River in flood for many years without problems.

    We need to recapture our manufacturing base and providing raw materials is a vital part of what is involved.

    • Matt in Finland

      There is a major difference between holding back water at flood stage on saturated flat ground and preventing pollution transport through the groundwater. The two things are entirely different.

      The former Finland Air Force base was built on bedrock, too, but all it took was some cracks in the bedrock, and now the aquifer on the top of airbase hill is a permanently polluted Super Fund site.

      And, as other commenters have said, copper is very recyclable, and more than 90% of the copper “raw material” we use in manufacturing has already been recycled at least once before.

  • David

    No, I’m not confident the proposed PolyMet mine would avoid polluting Minnesota’s water.
    If we need to boost our economy and protect the environment let’s beat Colorado’s projected gain of 100 million dollars in taxes by repealing the prohibition of cannabis/hemp altogether.

    My representative (who also is for repealing prohibition) Phyllis Kahn’s statement is:
    The scope of the PolyMet NorthMet SDEIS [Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement] is seriously lacking. This is especially the case when the issue of financial assurance is concerned.  I have three points:
                                   I.            In chapter 3, pages 136 to 138, you list information that includes the preliminary cost estimate of closure.  The source cited is “Foth 2013.” I’ve looked at the Foth memo cited in the SDEIS. The Minnesota DNR has simply copied information from PolyMet’s hired consultant without confirming or fact-checking their work. If the Minnesota DNR and its co-lead agencies are unable to fact-check the work they presented on financial assurance, how are we to expect that they are capable of the adequately protecting the citizens of Minnesota?
                                II.            This project should not go forward unless a third-party insurer, such as Lloyd’s of London, can be found. The simple fact is, if a third-party private entity will not take on PolyMet, the state shouldn’t.  Private insurers have expertise in managing risk that the State of Minnesota can’t match. Additionally, policymakers could tap the assurance funds for other purposes. Private insurance is clearly superior to a state managed approach in this case.
                             III.            In the SDEIS you say that financial assurance will be done in the Permit to Mine stage. Looking at the most recent MinnTac Permit to Mine document, there is one short paragraph on financial assurance. This project shouldn’t go forward without robust public debate, and the opportunity for legislative hearings, if what we can expect is a paragraph from the DNR in the Permit to Mine phase. You must ensure that the public, including financial experts and those elected to represent the citizens of Minnesota, have a chance to weigh in on financial assurance. It has not been your practice to do so in the past; will it be in this case?
    The 90-day public comment period on the proposal closes on Thursday, March 13.  Rep. Kahn encourages people to submit their comments via e-mail to:
    Or by US Mail to
    Lisa Fay, EIS Project Manager
    MDNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources
    Environmental Review Unit
    500 Lafayette Road, Box 25
    St. Paul, MN 55155-4025

  • beerenauslese

    Pollution of Minnesota’s waters is inevitable with a mining operation of this scale. No amount of infrastructure development will impede the infiltration of toxicity into the environment.

    More disconcertingly, this represents a major land grab, the privatization of Minnesota public lands. The so called ‘exchange’ is not a good one, giving the state marginal lands that aren’t worth much anyway. We are giving up a large black spruce, tamarack, and cedar wetland, as well as the entirety of Mud Lake. Yelp Creek and the Partridge River flow through the property. The Partridge River drains into the St. Louis River and then into Lake Superior. It will be like an intravenous drip of toxic chemicals for Lake Superior for the next five hundred years or more.

    This plan is so shortsighted and wrong. It seems like the DNR in its activities is totally pro-business. The DFL is so scared of upsetting the iron range vote it looks like they’ll go for this no matter what the public says.

  • Nicholas Banovetz

    No–not at all. Research and science, and other copper-knickle mines, tell us that Polymet will pollute. The questions are how much and will the company be around long enough to take responsibility? Unfortunately, I don’t trust international companies to protect the BWCAW/BWCAW watershed and the massive amount of tourism in the Greater Ely area. Nor do I trust our state to implement financial assurance at appropriate levels. Mining companies (i.e., their parent companies) go the bankruptcy route to evade responsibility. This is one risky project–one that will likely set precedent.

  • grets

    Not at all and I hope it doesn’t get permission. However, if it does, the state should require monthly contributions by the company into a fund that that will cover future costs of containing the pollutants once the company has quit mining or spun off and sold/bankrupted the spin off, etc. We can not rely on the company (or a company it may be sold to) to be around 100+ years into the future to maintain these toxic waste dumps.

  • Peter Fleischhacker

    The photo tells the tale. The photo of the reverse osmosis machine. It shows optimism at it’s best.

  • BruzviaPolly

    All our senators and congress people, including Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar have
    expressed support for this project, so I’m afraid it will go through
    regardless of Phyllis Kahn’s objections. Polymet will say whatever they have
    to to get the project approved. Then they will spend whatever assurance
    money they have set aside, declare bankruptcy and waltz into the sunset
    with their billions. We will be left with polluted water and a decimated
    landscape. So what’s new?

  • dan iverson

    I believe MPR should, at this critical time in
    the fight for our precious pristine lakes and streams of northern
    Minnesota, direct all of it’s resources into educating as aggressively
    as possible , all Minnesotan’s in the more densely populated southern
    half of the state as to the cowardly swindle the DNR and Corp of
    Engineers complicit with most of our elected officials is about to allow
    with the approval of sulfide mining agreements with Poly Met. With 400
    million metric tons of pulverized sulfur rock increasing exponentially
    the dissolution factor over virtually an eternity, how can this not be
    the most important turning point in Minnesota’s history. A communication
    tower, a bridge or a power plant can be swept away in months whereas
    mountains of poisonous rock and lakes of toxic brew destined to spill
    over into our lakes and streams will be there forever.

  • Ma

    Of course not. The organizations behind this resource grab have no history of anything other than smash and grab. Ask them to show a single sulphide mining operation anywhere in the world that hasn’t resulted serious ongoing damage to water sheds they were in, and I’l show you a mine that hasn’t opened yet. This entire endeavor has been smoke and mirrors from the start and there is nothing about it’s current state that has changed my view of that or the facts about what this sort of activity leaves in it’s wake. PolyMet and it’s backers are playing the people of Minnesota for a bunch of rubes or worse and some of them are living down to that view. I am sorely disappointed in the process and leadership that’s layed out the welcome mat to a group and industry that clearly cares only about lining it’s own pockets at the expense of everything and everyone else.