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Minnesota needs respectful leaders who put the health of our waters and children first

The Boundary Waters
On Jan. 25 I listened to reports detailing NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly’s interview with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, including his misogynistic, verbally abusive behavior following the interview. I was incredulous.

Little did I know that a few hours later I would be equally incredulous witnessing the toxic behavior displayed by Jason Lewis at a public meeting in Ely, watching in disbelief as the atmosphere grew increasingly toxic the longer he spoke.

Lewis, having lost his seat as Minnesota representative for U.S. Congressional District 2, has now set his sights on one of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seats. He showed up in Ely for a “meet and greet” session, bouncing from District 2 to District 8.

Inciting incivility is not leadership

At the meeting advertised and supposedly designed for residents to learn about his views, while also giving them the opportunity to tell him their concerns, Lewis displayed the most bizarre behavior by a politician that I have ever witnessed.

He had obviously come to engage copper-nickel sulfide (sulfide) mining proponents, and to do everything in his power to shut down those with a pro-water view. Not only did he repeatedly refuse to give a civil, well-spoken businesswoman from our Ely community the opportunity to express her concerns for our waters, he continually ridiculed her, and by his actions encouraged mining supporters to applaud his increasingly misogynistic behavior.

It did not take long in this atmosphere of deliberately escalated rancor for a male member of “Fight For Mining Minnesota” to jump up from his chair yelling, turn around, and hulking over the woman, to verbally attack her — venomously spewing that everything she had to say was “expletive.” By his silence, Lewis gave his tacit approval.

Hypocritical and uninformed

Lewis had earlier sarcastically asked her, “Don’t you care about the St. Louis River?” PolyMet would pollute the St. Louis River watershed flowing to Lake Superior; her focus had been on the Rainy River watershed and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). Logically so — she operates an outfitting business designed to encourage women to explore the BWCA.

It was a particularly hypocritical question in the first place because Lewis apparently did not care about either watershed. His question was also a classic example of an individual who is ill informed — or has no legitimate answer — so turns it back on the questioner, or the interviewer, shades of Pompeo.

Lewis needs to remember that the purpose of meeting potential constituents is to listen to everyone’s concerns, whether in agreement or not, and to do so respectfully. It is one way to learn the nuances of any issue.

The issue of buffers

Lewis mistakenly agreed with mining proponents, asserting that the BWCA was adequately protected by buffer zones — part of federal legislation enacted in 1978 — including the area where Antofagasta proposes to mine with the Twin Metals project.

In the 1978 BWCA Act, the Mining Protection Area included the Gunflint Trail, the Fernberg Road, the Echo Trail, and a thin buffer west of Burntside Lake and north of Lake Vermillion. There was no federal protective buffer zone designated along the southern/southwestern boundary of the BWCA. Highway 1 and Spruce Road areas — where Antofagasta and Teck Resources (Teck) are proposing underground and open pit mines — are without a federal BWCA buffer zone.

Mining Protection Area

Also, straddling the Laurentian Divide — holding the largest deposit — Teck stands to pollute both watersheds.

Red herring

“We need these minerals.” A mining supporter in Lewis’ audience repeated the industry mantra yet again. No matter that our waters are more important and more valuable than those minerals. No matter that those minerals belong to Antofagasta and would go to Chile, ranked the largest producer of copper — by far — in the world. No matter that PolyMet’s minerals would belong to Glencore. No matter that not one corporate power — Antofagasta, Glencore, or Teck — has ever not polluted in comparable water intensive environments with comparable ore bodies. No matter that contamination from massive sulfide mining waste in an environment such as ours cannot be cleaned up. Perpetual water treatment and waste storage is mythical thinking.

The industry slogan, “Minnesota can have mining and clean water,” is the biggest myth of all. Take a look at the “Map to the Iron Mining & Metallic Mineral Exploration Mapset.” [PDF]

What chance do our waters have? None. Neither do future generations of Minnesota’s children who would pay — with damaged health and intellect — for the blind acceptance of disinformation, lies of omission, and corporate greed. Minnesota’s defining moment is now.

Here’s an alternative mantra: “We need these waters.”

C.A. Arneson lives on a lake in the Ely area.


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Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/06/2020 - 09:15 am.

    Capitalism increasingly looks like ecocide. No limits, no boundaries, eternal growth, eternal progress: all demand eternal exploitation.

    I’ve long thought the Trump movement really represents the subconscious awareness that resources are limited, there is only a little time before the balance shifts into civilizational collapse, so let’s have one more generation of anything goes and nothing matters.

    At the same time, most Dem/DFL leadership in this state are equally handmaidens of Glencore and Antagofasta, and on the polluting agriculture side, Cargill, Bayer, General Mills, Pillsbury, and on the PFAS side, 3M etc, so I don’t really see any leadership in Minnesota about clean water for this or future generations.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/06/2020 - 10:41 am.

      Capitalism actually protects the environment because those other resources have value too. Go look at the conditions in China, Russia, India et al once and see how well the left wing ideology of Socialism/Communism works out for the environment. The hypocrisy knows no bounds, you want everyone to drive electric cars but no mining for the minerals to build them. Or maybe you just prefer that those mines are placed elsewhere so you don’t have to see them??

      • Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 03/06/2020 - 01:02 pm.

        Socialism, Democratic Socialism, Communism and Fascism all have distinctly different definitions. I urge everyone to do an online search and compare them carefully. And add that what the Trump admin/regime is trying to put into place most closely resembles Fascism!
        The ‘media’s (ha!) Who exist for the sole purposes of spreading planned, purposeful propaganda are counting on you not doing the above and instead blindly believing their blatant misinformation and lies. See, ignorant, hungry, sick, struggling constituents are much easier to mislead and control. While you are all distracted, they can do whatever they please…cuz you are all too busy/focused elsewhere to notice, let alone fight back. Way to give away all of your power! This has worked well in the red states. Not so much in the blue states. The reasons why are obvious: we believe in early and higher education, and healthcare for all, and businesses that pay good salaries and provide benefits and that give back to their communities, and so on. This is a hugely pivotal moment in the country and much is on the line. Don’t allow yourselves to be swayed or indictrinated. Show the abusive, greedy, power hungry old rich white guys the door. Vote for folks with good intentions and plans, which care about ‘the little people’s and who act with integrity. Your children and grandchildren will Thank You for the security and solvency…and clean air and water…and equal rights and protections you grab back from the edge of the cliff.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/06/2020 - 01:24 pm.

        Pollinators in America are going extinct. Biodiversity in America is less and less year in year. The waters are more polluted year on year with chemicals and plastics. We are sending millions of tons of polluted soil down the river every year.

        Tell me again how capitalism is good for ecology? Not by some false comparison, but by some actual fact?

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/06/2020 - 01:31 pm.

        BTW Bob, I have said many times here, electric cars are neither green nor renewable. As for this mining here, no I don’t want it anywhere if it means most of the money goes out of the community but the community has to deal with the mess for 500years.

        • Submitted by Joe Frank on 03/12/2020 - 08:27 am.

          If we don’t mine it here, ALL of the money goes out of the country. Mining it here will employ hundreds of Minnesotans and provide thousands of spin-off jobs, least you forget.

    • Submitted by Joe Frank on 03/12/2020 - 08:26 am.

      In the mean time, this anti-mining author doesn’t mind the economic slavery going on in other countries where we get these same metals from. We can get them here in our backyard where we can ensure it’s done safely and without child labor.

  2. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/06/2020 - 10:36 am.

    To paraphrase Paul Harvey…lets hear the rest of the story. All we get here is a biased opinion of what happened at the townhall. On top of that some misleading claims about mining too. The minerals are sold on the open market. Mining is expensive which is why only a few companies do it. However all that money for labor etc goes into the local communities and even the State coffers. And to claim you can predict the future by claiming the water will be contaminated is a logical fallacy. The fact is you don’t know if any pollution will or won’t happen, none of us do. The minerals are needed… because I assume you like electricity in your house, electronic devices like cell phones and computers ….etc.

    • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/06/2020 - 11:20 am.

      “Capitalism actually protects the environment because those other resources have value too.”

      The industrial of the 19th century is evidence enough to show that this statement is not true. And, it was action taken by the government that ultimately put an end to the most rapacious behaviors of unrestrained capitalism.

      “The fact is you don’t know if any pollution will or won’t happen, none of us do.”

      Does his mean that Glencore and Antofagasta don’t know either? Based on their record of pollution, you might be correct.

      “The minerals are needed… because I assume you like electricity in your house, electronic devices like cell phones and computers ….etc.”

      Ms. Arneson already refuted this. But, Mr. Barnes, can you tell us which products that Minnesotans will purchase will come from MN copper mines?

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/06/2020 - 03:31 pm.

        The copper goes on the open markets. Just like oil. The entire world needs copper , including the US. You don’t believe Alaskans use all the oil pumped out of the ground in Alaska do you? If we don’t mine the copper, prices will go up and shortages will eventually happen. It’s simple economics…supply and demand.

        As for pollution , you can’t compare operations in other nations because they don’t have the strict environmental standards we have. So comparing a sulfide mine in Chile to one in MN is apples to cement blocks.

        • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/06/2020 - 04:08 pm.

          “As for pollution , you can’t compare operations in other nations because they don’t have the strict environmental standards we have. So comparing a sulfide mine in Chile to one in MN is apples to cement blocks.”

          If our regulations were sufficient then the we would not have the water pollution issues that we have throughout western and southern Minnesota. Your platitudinous response also neglects history. When the Dunka Pit was shown to be leaching heavy metals into nearby waters the state gave them a variance and allowed them to continue to pollute.


          So, Bob, based on your expertise in this matter what particular regulations exist on the books that will protect water quality and what guarantees are there that they will be enforced?

        • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/06/2020 - 04:22 pm.

          “If we don’t mine the copper, prices will go up and shortages will eventually happen. It’s simple economics…supply and demand.”

          You seem to have contradicted yourself, Bob. First, we must mine copper in MN otherwise the price will go up–supply and demand. However, increased supply will lower the price of copper and thus our expensive-to-run, “highly regulated” mines will close because they will not be profitable–again, supply and demand. Simple economics.

          Again, based on your expertise in this matter, could you please clarify how these projects will be feasible in your scenario?

      • Submitted by Jay Davis on 03/08/2020 - 06:28 pm.

        “capitalism actually protects the environment because those other resources have value too”

        The study of externalities and how two parties in a transaction may not take into account the wellbeing of third parties is taught in econ 101. Even Ronald Coase didn’t think that the assumptions underlying the Coase Theorem would hold true very often. Capitalism protects the environment. Jeez.

    • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/06/2020 - 01:35 pm.

      “And to claim you can predict the future by claiming the water will be contaminated is a logical fallacy”

      The logical fallacy is you deliberately ignoring the fact that even the mining companies admit that pollution remediation will take 10-25 generations.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/06/2020 - 03:34 pm.

        You forget to mention IF ….IF any remediation is ever needed. You wrongly assume there will be pollution. No one can predict the future. Given the regulations they have to comply with its much more likely there will be no pollution at all. You are simply using fear mongering to try to stifle debate and rouse opposition to the mining.

        • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/07/2020 - 09:30 am.

          Not even Glencore nor Antagofasta are so brazen or disconnected from the facts of mining in water rich sulfide that they would say “if”. But you can be sure, when it happens, the executives and investors of those foreign corporations won’t be paying for long term cleanup.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/06/2020 - 10:41 am.

    For what little it’s worth, I agree with both C.A. Arneson and Mr. Duncan. The metals (and the profits from their sale) will go to foreign entities and foreign bank accounts, for whom the miners are no more than hired day labor, and short-term labor at that. It’s pitiful to see addicts begging for “just one more fix,” and that’s the way pleas from the area about jobs strike me.

    Trapped in a dying industry that can’t help but pollute – and has done so in every single instance to date – miners (especially if they’re… ahem… middle-aged) understandably are not happy about the prospect of having to find a new career paying a living wage in a society that’s in upheaval all around them. I sympathize with their predicament.

    But not enough to throw away what is perhaps the most valuable natural asset the state has for what is, in relative terms, a few shekels, especially when the money will largely go overseas to shareholders who couldn’t care less about the effect of their enterprise on the locals as long as the quarterly reports are solidly in the black. Social and economic upheaval have been part of American life from the beginning, and almost without letup. People in every walk of life have had to adapt to change, sometimes more rapidly than others, and it’s never easy to do that. Easy or not, however, when the choice is finding a new career or living in a permanently poisoned environment that’s right out of a dystopian science-fiction novel, rational people ought to lean in favor of the former.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 03/06/2020 - 11:09 am.

    Funny but I don’t care about flowery language, a long history in politics or some charming person to have coffee with…. I want someone that is willing to fight for my ideals and constitutionally given rights….. Period….. I don’t need a “peace and love” person (already had that phase in the 60’s), I need someone fighting for my right, as a law abiding citizen, to own a gun. Don’t need a “I love everyone” person, I need a fighter who will stand against illegal entry into our country and open borders. Don’t need a person hugging children, I want someone fighting for that child to get an education that prepares them for life after 13 years in public schools. I don’t need a person passing some unseen purity test, I need someone fighting for mining companies, that pass their permitting process, to legally start working.
    I am not hanging out with Senators, Representatives or many politicians from either party, I have plenty of friends now. I want someone fighting for what I believe…. Period.

    • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/06/2020 - 01:38 pm.

      Do you believe it is ok to fight for the right to pollute Minnesota waters for 25 generations for one generations profits that mostly leave the community?

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/06/2020 - 03:37 pm.

        That is another logical fallacy. No one is doing any such thing nor has any desire to pollute the waters. They have strict regulations they have to adhere to which will prevent pollution.

        • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/06/2020 - 04:13 pm.

          You keep using this phrase: logical fallacy. What particular logical fallacy has been presented?

          Is he incorrect in saying that the vast majority of the profits will leave the country?

          • Submitted by joe smith on 03/06/2020 - 05:12 pm.

            Once you pass permitting process that means you have met all the environmental requirements. I didn’t notice the “let’s pollute the area” permit. How else are you going to run your electric cars unless you get nickel for the batteries?

            • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/06/2020 - 06:22 pm.

              “Once you pass permitting process that means you have met all the environmental requirements.”

              I find it curious that you often repeat this statement over and over. Yet, interestingly, never do you provide evidence that the “environmental requirements” are sufficient or will even be enforced. We already know that “the courts found that the regulatory agencies fell down on the job” as Steve Timmer rightly pointed out.

              • Submitted by joe smith on 03/07/2020 - 08:08 am.

                Brian, it is the law that you pass the EPA approved requirements for water and land safety. Do you think that anyone can just start mining without Government approval? You can’t add on a mud room to your house without approval!

        • Submitted by richard owens on 03/06/2020 - 07:05 pm.

          The very copper-nickel bearing rock, once exposed to air or water begins to chemically leach sulfuric acid (battery acid), the pH of which is incompatible with the existing flora and fauna.


          The Dunka Pit south of Babbit is one such place where acid mine drainage is still polluting the downstream flows and the groundwater.

          It cannot be fixed. If you think iot can, then cleaning up the Dunka Pit will make mining believers out of ordinary chemists who like to fish.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/06/2020 - 09:25 pm.

          Incorrect, YOU are willing to permit the pollution of waters. You’ll note that the permits for many industries, mining included generally do NOT specify NO polluiton, but what LEVEL of pollution will be permitted. If you support that permitting process, and the industrial activity it allows, you ARE supporting pollution and by inference desire it more than having the waters remain untouched.

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 03/09/2020 - 08:57 am.

      Funny, I agree with you about fighting for our interests, everyone’s not just MINE, but mostly I want someone who is honest. I could even vote for someone I don’t agree with if that person was honest and their opponent was proven to be dishonest. Fortunately for me I will never have to vote for a Republican.

  5. Submitted by Brian Nelson on 03/06/2020 - 11:26 am.

    “I need someone fighting for mining companies, that pass their permitting process, to legally start working.”

    And once again, I am sure you are perfectly fine with putting Antofagasta’s and Glencore’s names on the permits. Yet, it sure sounds like you are fighting for limiting the liability of foreign corporations. It sure sound like you are fighting for shell corporations.

  6. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 03/06/2020 - 03:34 pm.

    Lewis has a history of dehumanizing women. It seems to be built into his character and political outlook:

    Republican House member once lamented you can’t call women “sluts” anymore

  7. Submitted by Alan Muller on 03/08/2020 - 01:21 pm.

    Jason Lewis was “my” congresscritter in CD2. He’s predictably crude, hostile, and ignorant. But one must admit he’d fit into the US Senate as presently configured.

  8. Submitted by Joe Musich on 03/10/2020 - 07:41 pm.

    Good to know that somehow Lewis behavior is not kept under wraps. Although he has some many brothers in bu!!§h+$ that they can take over a meeting and spread venom. As to the need for mining recycling will certainly take care of the need once it is done more widely as recommended by nonevother then the copper industry. It is the mining industry that is pushing these projects. Let’s be clear about that fact. Not sure. Could accept an income for the destruction these projects could bring. I do not understand people feeling mining is their only choice. My parents made damn sure I did not accept that as a reality while growing up on the mesabi. And I was not the only one as the range cities lost almost the entire boomer generation. The lack of diversity for work lead to people leaving. The lack of economic imagination by being absolutely rooted to one way of living created that singular choice for the good life. What is the most difficult to understand that the cycle repeats itself again,again and again.

  9. Submitted by Paul Nelson on 03/12/2020 - 05:29 pm.

    Mining is a boom and bust industry in which the mining companies fight regulation with all of their resources. When copper prices fall, as they eventually must, you can be sure that Antofagasta will be at the capitol demanding relief from regulations in order to “save jobs,” and it will have the support of the same people supporting it today. Has there ever, ever been a trustworthy mining company? The past is prologue.

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