Monetary Benefits Considered

     I know they say, "Money makes the world go round." but does it always have to be the most important consideration when making a decision?  Too many decisions are made because of money.  When does quality enter the equation?  Whether it’s a quality education, piece of clothing, vacation, water or air, I would say quality should play a big role in decision making. 

     The following thoughts presented regarding proposed mining in the area are very thought provoking and raise many questions.  I am always leery of what is said and what is written especially because of the numerous topics that are sometimes twisted even by respected organizations such as the Friends of the Boundary Waters in order to gain public approval.  I know there are two sides to every story but I haven’t heard the other side of this story yet.  If someone knows of benefits other than monetary then please educate me and my readers.

Please consider our comments on the DEIS addressing the PolyMet sulfide mining proposal.  We are long time residents of Minnesota’s Arrowhead who believe that the proposed action would imperil the true treasures of this area: clean waters, clean air, beautiful forests, bountiful wildlife: in short, a healthy ecosystem.

 The DEIS fails to adequately address the following issues:

·      The project’s carbon footprint.  What would be the true measure of greenhouse gas and particulate emissions?  How will the destruction of extensive boglands affect the area’s value for carbon sequestration?

·      The exchange of public land for a project that will destroy the natural values that current management (by the Forest Service) protects. The site of the proposed mine was singled out as being unique and significant by Forest Service and DNR scientists in the late 1990s. The proposed action would permanently erase a good part of an already dwindling resource.

·      Impacts of acid mine drainage.  There has never been a mine of the type proposed that has failed to pollute adjacent land and watersheds.  The DEIS claim that PolyMet can avoid this seem to be based on new untested technologies.  There must be detailed plans in place in case these new technologies fail.  Similar operations in dryer environments have been disastrous; here, in an area rich in surface and ground waters, all interconnected, the result could be catastrophic.

·      Disposal of waste.  PolyMet plans to use tailings basins that are currently leaking and in violation of state law.  State and federal regulatory agencies have failed to take action.  How can we be assured that our health and natural resources will be protected from the more toxic waste that will be generated by the proposed action? The DEIS does not answer this question.

·      Very long term effects.  Impacts to the environment that may occur after PolyMet is gone (which may be sooner than the projected 2 – 3 decades, due to market fluctuations, the company’s fiscal health  or adjusted priorities, etc) need to be scrutinized in detail.  Exactly how will adequate water treatment be accomplished as the decades and centuries roll by?

·      Financial assurances.  In light of the history of similar mining projects around the world, assurances that taxpayers won’t be left with a colossal clean up bill must be iron-clad, and currently, they are not.

·      Risk to aquatic resources. There is a high potential for mercury methylation as a result of increased sulfate concentrations in seepage from the tailings basin to surrounding wetlands. Impacts to wild rice stands are just one of the many aquatic resources that the DEIS fails to address, or addresses inadequately.

·      Loss of habitat for the Canadian Lynx. Can this loss, to an endangered species, of hundreds of acres of critical habitat be adequately rationalized or mitigated?

·      Damage to the wild character of the area.  The impacts of the proposed project on the character of an area that millions from around the world visit for its beauty, peace, good fishing, spiritual renewal and all sorts of intangible values should be considered.  Will people continue to flock here with this sort of mining going on?

 We understand the struggle to find jobs and support families and local economies.  However, the boom and bust cycle that mining brings is not the sort of sustainable economy we need.  The new jobs projected for the project are speculative and short term.  Many of them may well be contracted out to companies with no ties to the northland; locals may see few benefits.  PolyMet is a Canadian company.  The ore mined in Minnesota would be processed in Canada and the minerals sold on a world market; our state, even our nation, will see few if any benefits.  Given the history of sulfide mining, it’s very likely that Minnesotans will end up facing an environmental disaster and paying for attempts to clean it up.  Weigh this against our healthy tourism industry along with the invaluable ecosystem functions provided by healthy lands and waters, and the proposed action makes no sense.