Recently, Gov. Tim Walz announced he is launching a new partnership to “expand Minnesota’s outdoor recreation industry – and make Minnesota a top 10 state in outdoor recreation.” Additionally, on July 16, Walz proudly celebrated Lake Superior Day by saying the lake “puts the great in Great Lakes.” Both are admirable and from his words one would think Walz is doing everything he can to protect Minnesota’s clean water. After all, how could Minnesota possibly become a top 10 state for outdoor recreation without our greatest outdoor resources, the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior?
Yet, when you look past words and dig into Walz’s action, it’s clear he is undermining his own stated goals by refusing to act on the obvious threat sulfide mining poses to Minnesota’s clean water.
Economic analysis out of Harvard shows that sulfide mining would actually be a net loss for Minnesota’s economy due to pollution ruining, you guessed it, the outdoor recreation industry in Northeastern Minnesota. This finding is important but not surprising. The Boundary Waters and Lake Superior are far and away the biggest drivers of Minnesota’s current outdoor recreation industry. These bodies of water are the crown jewels that Minnesota is known for around the world. If we allow them to be polluted, how could we expect to grow outdoor recreation?
Let’s be clear, pollution is certain. There is no independent science suggesting sulfide mines in Minnesota will be pollution free and there has never been a sulfide mine anywhere in the world that operated without polluting. If we want to grow and protect Minnesota’s outdoor recreation industry, the solution is obvious, say no to copper-nickel sulfide mining.
Yet, Walz refuses to act. In fact, his actions are closer to pushing for the mines than they are to defending clean water. His state agencies continue to defend flawed and rejected permits in court, and his budgets continually use taxpayer dollars to pay out of state legal firms to defend the PolyMet project. A project that the Environmental Protection Agency showed poses a critical threat to Lake Superior. Just last week, state agencies held a mining promotional tour which featured state leaders touring and meeting with leaders of these mining proposals.
Finally, in this very outlet, Walz claimed he would like to see PolyMet’s parent company, the notorious criminal actor Glencore, be named to the PolyMet permits. Without Glencore being named on the permits, it will be impossible to hold them accountable for any disasters. However, despite making this claim almost four years ago, and having the power to add Glencore to the permits at any time, Walz has failed to do so.
All of this, combined with Walz’s refusal to take a stance on clean water protection bills like Prove It First or the DNR Conflict of Interest Act, it’s clear where Walz stands. Unfortunately, this stance of tacit support for sulfide mining directly contradicts his stated goal of protecting Lake Superior and growing outdoor recreation in Minnesota.
The reality is the question of allowing sulfide mining in Minnesota really is an either/or. Clean water or sulfide mining, we can’t have both. If Walz wants Minnesota to be a global leader in outdoor recreation, he is going to have to change his actions to match his words.
Scott Beauchamp is the policy director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.