PolyMet Q & A
What’s this “PolyMet?” PolyMet is a Canadian corporation with a proposed “Northmet” mine they’d like to open near Babbitt, Minnesota. They propose an open pit sulfide ore mine. Search PolyMet Stock.
Who is behind PolyMet? PolyMet has no experience operating mines, but their largest financial backer, Glencore, does. Glencore is a financial giant in mining, and has a terrible reputation regarding labor, human rights and the environment.
The Chairman of the Board is Tony “I just want to get my life back” Hayward, of BP Oil(spill) fame.
What is Sulfide Ore Mining? Sulfide ore mining has never been done on a commercial scale in Minnesota. It is the mining of sulfur bearing rocks, which contain valuable metals such as copper, nickel, platinum, gold and palladium. Unfortunately, sulfide ore, when in contact with oxygen and water produces sulfuric acid, which leaches toxic metals from waste rock. Sulfide ore mining has never been done in water rich regions of the world without toxic acid mine drainage polluting surface and ground waters.
Is Sulfide Ore Mining Different from Taconite Mining? Yes, primarily related to the risk for contamination by sulfide material (which forms sulfuric acid upon contact with water and oxygen.) Minnesota’s taconite ores are generally very low in sulfides – reducing the risk to waters from this form of mining. The actual techniques of mining are very similar. In the case of PolyMet’s open pit proposal, nearly identical: blast rock, separate “waste” from “ore” and transport the ore to a crusher for separation of valuable metals. Discard overburden (non-ore waste rock) and tailings (waste rock ground as fine as talcum powder to separate it from valuable metals) in large heaps called tailings basins.
What are the Benefits of PolyMet? PolyMet suggests they will hire “up to 360” workers once the mine is open, for a period of 20 years. Nearby communities have lost hundreds of taconite mining jobs recently; people will be glad for the jobs. Many of the most skilled (highest paid) positions will have to come from outside Minnesota. The minerals will go to Glencore for processing outside of Minnesota. No royalties will be paid to either the Minnesota School Trust Fund, or the public in the form of royalties: these are private mineral rights.
What are the Risks of PolyMet? The assured impacts and risks are numerous, and accrue, not surprisingly, to the public, not the operators of the mine. Here are just a few:
- Destruction of and damage to more than 12 square miles of wetlands at the headwaters of streams leading to Lake Superior. These wetlands are in “outstanding” natural condition; we are unable to adequately replace these losses.
- Centuries of toxic drainage from the many square miles of waste rock piles and the mine pit, which will require “active treatment” (a water treatment plant) “indefinitely” – essentially forever. (The first draft of the EIS said for 500 years, but that’s been edited out.) At risk will be both Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters.
- PolyMet refuses to consider mining methods which will reduce environmental risks (because they cost more): keeping tailing dry to reduce toxic runoff (dry stack storage), underground mining to reduce wetland destruction, and alternative tailings disposal sites to reduce the risk of tailings basin leaking and collapse.
- Financial risk to future generations will be enormous. Who’s to pay for active water treatment for centuries? What about leaks, spills and accidents? Mine sites are the #1 liability of the taxpayer supported Superfund cleanups, with a bill exceeding $50 billion to date.
Shouldn’t we ask for a Large Damage Deposit from PolyMet? Yes we should. But that, in itself does not remove the financial risk to future generations. We are talking about needing centuries of funding. How do we estimate the costs of water treatment or spill cleanup in the year 2115? 2215? 2315? 2415?! Never have we had financial institutions and instruments which have spanned such time. The 2015 Minnesota legislature found it impossible to keep their hands off two closed landfill cleanup accounts (which they tapped for more than $60 million in unrelated expenses) “because they were just sitting there.” Those funds were set aside to cover costs expected…just five years from now.
PolyMet – What’s the Bottom Line? PolyMet is Not Right For Minnesota. PolyMet is an effort to mine low-grade ore (less than 1% of what is mined is valuable mineral, the rest is waste) on the cheap. Three hundred and sixty jobs for 20 years are in no way comparable to centuries of toxic pollution threatening jobs and livelihoods for our children’s great, great, great grandchildren. PolyMet Should be Rejected – It’s Not Worth the Risks.
Take Action - Tell Governor Dayton: PolyMet is not worth the risks to our children’s water or their wallet.
PolyMet is Not Right For Minnesota. Please reject the PolyMet mine plan! It is imperative that decision makers hear from you. Go to PolyMet-Action to learn who to contact and some sample messaging.
Read recent commnent letters on the PolyMet FEIS
To learn more about PolyMet, mining and the potential impacts go to:
terryongreen.wordpress.com Communication Chair Terry Houle's blog.
Wild Rice & the Sulfate Standard
Wild Rice & Sulfates resources from MPCA
- Proposal: Protecting wild rice from excess sulfate - March 2015 - Summary
- Proposed approach for Minnesota’s sulfate standard to protect wild rice - March 2015
- Protecting Wild Rice from Too Much Sulfate
- Information sources used to develop Draft List of MPCA Wild Rice Waters
- Draft List of Wild Rice Waters - October 2015
- Draft Watch List of Wild Rice Waters - October 2015