Regarding the recent MinnPost piece, “Twin Metals says it will use an electric vehicle fleet; opponents aren’t swayed”:
Let’s not be deceived by this PR stunt.
First, it’s worth remembering that metal mining is the most polluting industry in the United States. Forty-four percent of all chemical pollution from industry comes from metal mining, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In fact, research published in Nature found that emissions from primary mineral and metal production constituted approximately 10% of the total global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s getting worse. Due to decreasing ore grade, copper mining is becoming more energy intensive. From 2001 to 2017 in Chile — home of Antofagasta, the mining conglomerate that owns Twin Metals — electricity consumption increased by 32% per unit of mined copper.
A diversion from threat to water quality
Onto this stage comes Twin Metals with its tired campaign to convince Minnesotans that it will open a non-polluting mine. Its most recent stab at this comes in the form of a press-release announcing that it is going to use electric vehicles. Much like yelling “squirrel” to a dog, the hope is that shouting “electric vehicles” will make us forget what the science says and that unsettling fact that every copper-sulfide mine that has ever operated has polluted the surrounding water systems.
A water-rich environment like northeastern Minnesota would be particularly vulnerable. With or without electric vehicles, Twin Metals’ pollution would spill into the Boundary Waters, polluting a national treasure that is home to some of the cleanest water in the country.
As one Twitter user said, it’s like drinking motor oil out of a reusable straw.
Reason to be skeptical
There is reason to be skeptical about Twin Metals’ announcement. Will it actually go electric? To my knowledge, Twin Metals has not amended its Mine Plan of Operation to include electric vehicles, it has not entered into any legally binding agreement, signed deals with suppliers, specified how much of the fleet will be electric, or how it will build the infrastructure to support an electric fleet.
The biggest eyebrow lifter in the piece came with the claim that Twin Metals might be a carbon-neutral mine. Such a statement wasn’t surprising, given that Twin Metals has made it a policy of making fairy tale statements aimed at the environmental crowd. One of the best is that the mine will produce no acid mine drainage.
Twin Metals’ attempt to distract us with well-placed news stories about electric vehicles and a promise of a pollution free, carbon-neutral mine is a rhetorical trick meant to distract us from the science and naively allow this toxic industry to operate at the edge of the Boundary Waters.
Clean, fresh water is becoming a rarity. With some of the nation’s cleanest water at stake, Minnesotans cannot afford to fall for Twin Metals’ empty promises.
Pete Marshall is the communications director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
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