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"Financial Assurance" From Polymet Is Not Possible

Category: Environment
Posted: 11/09/15 16:12

by Dave Mindeman

Let's face it. Mining always harms the environment. I don't care how many assurances a mining company gives us, it is simply not possible to protect all of it.

Polymet seems to be on the path to getting approval for its operation. All the political and business winds are blowing in that direction. But the concerns raised by the environmentalists are entirely valid.

Here is the analysis that is most concerning...

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will consider PolyMet's financial assurance covering the cost of reclamation when the mine closes, which could be about 20 years after operations start. Those costs would include water treatment as long as is necessary. "Financial assurance could be required indefinitely and could include self-sustaining instruments," according to the study.

There is no "financial assurance". Polymet will extract what it can for those 20 years and then they will move on. Merge with another company. File bankruptcy if warranted and remove all of their future obligations. It happens all the time. It's business.

The fact that the water has to be treated is all we need to know about the chances for future problems. The water is contaminated. It must be filtered and treated because it is dirty. It is will damage what it touches if not processed. And there is no possible way that Polymet can guarantee that there will be no accidents and frankly, they cannot guarantee that their water refinement will be enough.

If Polymet gets its approval the absolute very least we should do is to have citizen oversight....and when I say that, we need oversight with some real teeth. A citizen's board that can't be gutted. A board that can halt production at the first sign of trouble. A board that Polymet needs to give full disclosure to...and that can work as a partner in environmental safety.

A mining company will not fully police itself....that much is clear. So if approval is given (which seems likely at this point) than Minnesota has every right to protect its most precious natural resources.

We need that as a minimum standard.
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We Are Trapped By Coal

Category: Environment
Posted: 11/02/15 12:11

by Dave Mindeman

North Dakota and Minnesota have a legal problem with coal.

The case pits Minnesota regulators against the state of North Dakota and its utility and coal interests over a 2007 Minnesota law restricting new power generation from coal. North Dakota successfully argued in federal district court that the law illegally regulates out-of-state utilities in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause.

Energy from coal is always going to be an environmental problem. There is no such thing as clean coal. Clean coal technology simply costs too much to have any chance of making coal environmentally acceptable. With the growing list of alternative energy sources, why do we continue using coal for power production?

Well, the answer to that is more political than practical. The coal lobby is very powerful in Congress. The West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania delegations are heavily influenced by coal companies. And North Dakota has its own coal production to give it a cheap power source....along with the new oil production in the Bakken. But here is the scary part of North Dakota...

North Dakota....relies on coal for 78 percent of its electricity.

The only saving grace to that statement is that North Dakota is not a populous state. If an urban state relied on coal to that extent, the pollution numbers would be out of control. But North Dakota's power companies reach beyond its borders and western Minnesota is caught in that web.

That is why the lawsuit exists. Minnesota has attempted to curb energy production from coal and that means that power companies that serve Minnesota citizens must reduce the amount of energy they derive from coal production. North Dakota does not feel that their companies should have to meet the same standards. And, legally, they are probably right.

The commerce clause in the Constitution favors the North Dakota position and I suspect in the end, Minnesota will lose this lawsuit. But that does not solve the problem or satisfy the issue.

Coal is dirty. It is a pollutant. Future reductions in CO2 gases require drastic reductions in coal use.

So this requires a national solution. Coal levels need to be restricted across the board. But, again, that brings us back to the usual problem - Congress. They will not deal with this because coal has money and coal has influence.

What is best for the country is always subjected to the influences of the powerful lobbyist interests.

And so it goes.....
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Gov. Dayton Looks To Mining Comparisons

Category: Environment
Posted: 10/28/15 13:56

by Dave Mindeman

Governor Dayton is traveling these days. He is visiting mines that, in theory, will give him an idea about the good and the bad that can result from the mining that Polymet is proposing in northern Minnesota.

His destinations are the Gilt Edge mine in South Dakota - an environmental disaster which has left the State of South Dakota with a $100 million cleanup bill....and the Eagle Mine in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan....which has been touted as a mining success story by mining advocates.

Dayton was given choices of mines to visit by both opponents and supporters of the Polymet mine. The first choice of opponents was a Canadian mine - the Mount Polley Mine in Canada, where a tailings basin recently failed, spilling over a billion gallons of waste. That would have given the Governor a full reading of how much impact a mining disaster can really have. But it is a remote site and Gov. Dayton decided on the South Dakota option.

Proponents of mining want Dayton to see the Eagle Mine in the UP of Michigan. It has gone through a decade of scrutiny and opened up actual production in September of 2014. And Lundin Mining which operates the mine claims that it has fulfilled its promises.

But actual mining has only been in operation for about 1 year. Is that a true test of its impact? Like Polymet, "Eagle uses reverse osmosis technology to treat water at the mine site before discharging it into the environment." But unlike Polymet, Eagle is an underground mining facility while Polymet will be a surface operation.

Here is what bothers me about that comparison. This is a quote from the article regarding the Gilt Edge mine....

The site was contaminated with acid mine drainage. It's what happens when rock containing sulfide is exposed to air and water during mining. At Gilt Edge, that leached arsenic, lead and other heavy metals out of the rock and into the surrounding environment.

I could be mistaken but wouldn't a surface mine have more rock exposure to air and water than an underground mine? And if so, will the Eagle Mine be a true comparison in regards to potential contamination?

Governor Dayton is doing everything he can to gather information about his decision on Polymet....and is going to wait for the completion of environmental impact studies before making that decision. But can we really get a true picture of what is involved by simple comparisons? In the end, Polymet will have to stand on its own...based on how it operates, how it prepares for potential cleanups, and what immediate area will be affected by the runoff.

Mining by its very nature produces harmful waste products. It cannot extract minerals without doing so. I realize that the mining industry and the people who covet its jobs want to move forward as quickly as possible. And I am sure that they feel that all of this careful analysis and study is a waste of valuable time. But this has to be done right - there isn't a do over. A mining disaster or damaging waste disposal are not easily fixed and damage done can be permanent.

So the Governor is wise to keep gathering information. The State of Minnesota is a steward of a very precious resource in the Boundary Waters and we must be certain that the Polymet mine can coexist safely with that resource.
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