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McCollum seeks ban on new mines in much of northeastern Minnesota

“Water knows no boundaries,” McCollum said. “It’s great that we have buffer zones, but we can’t tell a water-soluble toxic material, oh there’s a buffer zone there, stop. And that’s why you start looking at the watershed and the hydrology on how to protect the water.”

WASHINGTON — When it comes to controversial mining projects in Minnesota, the headlines go to PolyMet, the proposed copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes that became a touchstone in last year’s elections.

But one group of Minnesotans is taking on a bigger foe — and a bigger mine — miles to the north, and they have found an ally in the state’s congressional delegation.

A group called the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is working to convince the Obama administration, and eventually Congress, to take steps to block the proposed Twin Metals project, and indeed any precious metal mining in a vast swatch around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The group’s director, Becky Rom, was in Washington last month with a group of scientists and a stack of environmental studies, polling data, and economic reports meeting with administrators and members of Congress. Her message: the watershed surrounding the Boundary Waters is territory too precious to allow copper and nickel mining projects that present a set of environmental complications unique to the area.

Congress has previously protected thousands of acres of land surrounding the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park from mining interests, and the Obama administration has the right to do the same on its own, at least temporarily. Rom’s goal is to convince both Congress and Obama that the land straddling the BWCA is worthy of protection, and Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum announced Tuesday that she will introduce a bill to do just that.

“Here the choices are pretty clear,” Rom said. “It’s not difficult. It really is a pretty stark choice about our future and what’s important to people.”

Twin Metals: bigger than PolyMet

As currently envisioned, Twin Metals would be a large underground mine located about seven miles southeast of Ely. The project would employ 850 people and produce up to 50,000 tons of copper and nickel ore a day. The mine could operate for up to 30 years. (PolyMet, a project much further along in the regulatory process, is smaller, and much further away from an area as environmentally sensitive as the Boundary Waters watershed.)

Courtesy of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Federal metallic mineral leases near the Boundary Waters. Potential Twin Metals mine sites are circled in light blue. Click for larger version.

Like PolyMet, the Twin Metals mine would use a mining process that extracts metals by stripping them from surrounding rock. The waste rock then has to be stored offsite. 

Storing the spent rock is contentious: exposed to air and water, leftover tailings could produce sulfuric acid, which Rom and others worry could leak into the Rainy River Drainage Basin. 

It’s a process vastly different from iron ore mining, an industry that has defined northeastern Minnesota for generations.

Twin Metals spokesman: Enviornmental concerns premature

Twin Metals spokesman Bob McFarlin said it’s premature for environmental groups to say the mine could threaten the Boundary Waters given how long it will take for the mine to get up and running (the company is still writing its mine plan and McFarlin said it’s about two years away from submitting it to regulators). The company has been conducting environmental studies for more than five years, and McFarlin said it intends to design a mine that meets all existing environmental regulations.

“It’s all about knowing and understanding the regulations up front and designing our project to meet those regulatory standards,” he said. “If we don’t, we don’t get approved to move forward.”

Rom’s concerns aren’t solely with Twin Metals. It isn’t the only company considering precious metal mining in the region — maps of the area are dotted with permits for mineral prospecting around the Twin Metals site — and Rom questions the safety of the mineral extraction process itself, something her group says has led to acidic leaks at other mines around the country.

And besides, Rom said, even though the mines themselves are underground, the industrialization that would come from them could damage the aesthetics of the area.

“We’ve accepted this Mesabi Iron Range landscape,” she said. “Every one of those blotches is a permanent feature on the landscape. … We have to decide if we’re willing to let that happen all around the southern boundary of the Wilderness.”

A three-pronged approach

Rom has decided she is not willing to let that happen. Her group has commissioned pro-BWCA polls of Minnesotans and written environmental and economic studies based around mining’s impact on the region’s ecology and economy. Now, the group is pushing a three-pronged approach in Washington to stopping it.

First, the company that owns Twin Metals is in the process of renewing its lease on the land it hopes to someday mine. Rom’s group has asked the Bureau of Land Management, which is charged with approving the leases, to deny renewal on environmental grounds.

McFarlin said lease renewals are generally uncontroversial measures and an environmental review associated with it would be “unnecessary” because a company needs additional permitting before they can do anything with the minerals themselves. There are, of course, layers of environmental review associated with those new permits.

Secondly, Rom’s group wants the Obama administration to unilaterally ban mining on lands south of the Boundary Waters — not just Twin Metals, but the whole area. That sort of declaration has happened before: in 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar removed 1 million acres of federal land around Grand Canyon National Park from a mineral leasing program, effectively banning uranium and other mining activities there.

“There is precedent,” Rom said, “but it is courageous and it’s visionary.”

And it’s also only temporary. Twenty years after the administration’s actions, the lands are put back into the mineral leasing program, unless Congress steps in to remove them permanently. And for Rom, that’s step three.

McCollum joins the effort

Rep. Betty McCollum plans to introduce a bill later this week that would ban new mining on federal land in the Rainy River Drainage Basin around the BWCA. If enacted, the bill would allow mining activities on existing mineral leases (such as Twin Metals’, if they are to be approved by the BLM, something McCollum said he doesn’t want to happen), but with stricter federal oversight. It would also ban future mining leases throughout the area.

McCollum shares her goals with Rom: protect Northern Minnesota waters from any potential ill from a new form of mining.

“We are watching what is going on in the world, and even in the United States, with water becoming a resource that people are realizing needs to be protected and managed,” she said. “We know now we cannot take the water for granted.”

Congress has a history of protecting lands around the Boundary Waters. In 1964 and 1978, lawmakers enacted mining-free lands to the west of the BWCA. The state followed up with a similar buffer zone in 1991. McCollum’s bill would expand on those to cover much of the federal land in northeastern Minnesota. 

Courtesy of Rep. Betty McCollum’s office
McCollum’s bill would expand mining-free areas to cover the Rainy Creek watershed, outlined in yellow. Click for larger version.

“Water knows no boundaries,” McCollum said. “It’s great that we have buffer zones, but we can’t tell a water-soluble toxic material, oh there’s a buffer zone there, stop. And that’s why you start looking at the watershed and the hydrology on how to protect the water.”

Those buffer zones are among the reasons McFarlin says Twin Metals and the Boundary Waters can coexist. Mines there will open only if they conform to existing regulations, and McFarlin said Twin Metals isn’t looking for loopholes or relief from those regulations.

“The premise of the scenarios that are laid out in terms of harming the Boundary Waters or Voyageurs … do not acknowledge the existence of the regulatory standards or the regulatory enforcement mechanisms at the state and federal level,” he said.

Dim political prospects

Politically, it’s unlikely McCollum’s bill will find much support in a Republican Congress. Even some Democrats might defect anyway, including those from Minnesota, where many DFLers have a tendency to support mining, or at least the processes that determine its environmental safety.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents northeastern Minnesota, is among them. Asked about efforts to block mining in the area — but not McCollum’s bill — Nolan said, “I believe we have the brains and the technology to do both” mine and protect the environment.

“We’re never going to allow mining in the BWCA, we’re never going to allow mining in the Voyageurs National Park,” he said last month. “The deal was that the rest of the federal and state forests would be available for responsible forest management and mining and other commercial-related activities. At some point, we have to have some jobs, we need forestry products, we need mining and mineral products.”

‘Contrary to good government’

Beyond their obvious opposing viewpoints on the relative merits of Twin Metals, McFarlin said he’s against the approach that Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is taking now. Asking the government, be it regulators or Congress, to block any mining at all near the BWCA precludes any projects from going through environmental review or a public comment process. It’s “contrary to good government,” he said.

But in a way, that’s what Rom wants: a declaration that there are some places where any mining at all should be off limits, the watershed of the BWCA among them.

“If you wait until leases are in place and a mine plan is fully fleshed out and developed, and then you start a review of that mine plan, you’re no longer having a discussion of whether a mine is appropriate in this place,” she said. “What we’ve learned is that when you have a very important area of national significance that is threatened by a particular inappropriate activity, that your campaign is about that special place. Our goal is no sulfide ore mining in the watershed.”

This is Devin Henry’s last story as MinnPost’s D.C. correspondent. You can keep up with him on Twitter: @dhenry

Comments (39)

  1. Submitted by THOMAS REYNOLDS on 04/14/2015 - 04:46 pm.

    An environmental preserve…

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. These idiots won’t be satisfied until everything north of Hinckley is designated a National Park and an environment safe zone.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/15/2015 - 12:14 am.



      You should read this too…

      … and, after you have, please enlighten all the idiots with your vision of the non-idiot way to proceed in regards to copper nickel mining on the edge of some of the most incredible real estate left on Earth in which you may or may not have spent time. (Have you ever taken a drink of water straight out of a Minnesota river or lake south of Hinckley?)

    • Submitted by jason myron on 04/15/2015 - 06:32 am.

      That sounds good to me, Thomas

      It certainly beats the alternative of the “idiots” that would turn the BWCA into Wisconsin Dells if they could.
      They would have a giant water slide that started in Grand Marais and emptied into Saganaga, with the Gunflint Trail turned into a parking lot. Thanks, but of the two, I’ll go with the former.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/15/2015 - 11:27 am.

      I’d agree

      They need to allow government process and regulation take place before jumping to protect something. I understand some people are against things they don’t like but at the very least look at the facts and read the proposed plan before shouting from the mountain top and forming organizations to say how terrible it is. Then if it doesn’t pass the test you can express your desire to stop it.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/16/2015 - 11:21 am.

        Let’s ask Smokey the Bear

        In the case of Polymet and Twin Metals, that would be like me putting together whatever it took to “prove” to the government that when I strike this match and light this wadded up piece of newspaper underneath this little pile of kindling sitting in the middle of the tinder-dry woods I will NOT start a forest fire because, as I have proven, these materials will NOT burn.

        If your house was in the middle of that woods would you recommend waiting around to see whether or not the government believed me enough to let me strike the match?

        Polymet and Twin Metals WILL pollute the waters of northeast Minnesota if they’re allowed to proceed. We can know that because that’s what they’ve done everywhere they’ve operated in the past. It has ALWAYS been the case, and there is NOTHING they’re proposing that is any different than what they’ve proposed before. If you don’t believe that, or if you’d be okay with the waters of northeastern Minnesota being polluted and ruined, by all means, don’t do anything other than try to convince other people to wait and see what the government decides before trying to get the barn door closed before the horse runs out and down the road (forever).

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 04/20/2015 - 01:07 pm.

      I confess to being one of the many “idiots.” This is our state too.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 04/20/2015 - 02:39 pm.

      Given the amount people are able to charge for vacation rentals up in Grand Marais, I’d say there are plenty of ‘idiots’ there who support a healthy and resilient environment. Tourism jobs are jobs too- and generally ones that don’t result in mesothelioma.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 04/14/2015 - 04:54 pm.

    Betty, please stay down in St Paul and take care of the multiple problems you have going with the folks of your district. When push comes to shove DFL Reps on the Range will vote to give permits so folks up here can work. The studies that Polymet have been doing the past 10 yrs plus their plan will meet all standards, permits should be given and minerals mined. With taconite mining going through another slow down, copper and nickel mining is what the Range needs to employ local folks with good paying jobs working in or servicing the mines.

    On a separate note, why does the Federal Govt own any land in Minnesota or any other state? Land should be owned by States, counties or private citizens only. Who wants a DC elite telling us what we can or cannot do in Minnesota. Always amazes me when folks want to give power to people we will never meet over their land/lives and not keep it local with Reps we know and vote in or out of office.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 04/14/2015 - 05:56 pm.

      Joe – I’ll leave it up to you what you

      Want to do with trusting these mining companies. I understand the jobs issue. But if something goes wrong and clean up, etc is necessary, don’t come down to the metro for help. We are fighting the corporate polluters on a daily basis. We don’t need your potential problems esp when you think the mining companies are so trustful.
      As to your other concern, the federal govt owned all the land of MN long before the state of MN was established. It is easy to discover the history online. Please do

      • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 04/14/2015 - 07:22 pm.

        You might want to ask…

        Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot about why the federal government sees the need to own land.

        • Submitted by joe smith on 04/15/2015 - 11:50 am.

          Hard to ask Teddy and Gifford much these days. Equal Footing Doctrine gave States the right to own land within its borders. I just don’t get why the Federal Govt owns any State land. Not a believer in the “one size fits all” in land usage. If folks in California don’t want mining, drilling & logging on their land let them vote on it as a State. If we want to mine and log in Minnesota let us vote on it as a State. Some non elected board sitting in DC shouldn’t decide it for both States. We have given up more rights to our lives, lands and freedoms to DC elites than I think is necessary.

          • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 04/15/2015 - 03:22 pm.

            Clearly, it’s hard to ask…

            That misses the point. Dill recently said, regarding the SNF land swap that we wants “log and mine” the out of that land. You have not demonstrated that Dill would be a better manager than a DC Elite.” I get that it is an emotional topic for you, but beyond the buzzwords you have not made a very convincing case.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/14/2015 - 11:53 pm.

      When you’ve got a few minutes read this:

      It’s a MinnPost article from a few months ago. I’d be interested in knowing what you think about what it has to say and whether you think the company mentioned had a plan that met all standards before they went to work?

      And when it comes to ownership of the land, do you think the people that live “on the range” own that part of Minnesota’s land that includes the watersheds that feed the Boundary Waters, the St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and pretty much all the streams and wetlands, sloughs, swamps, bogs, lakes and forest of northeastern Minnesota in general and everybody in the state that doesn’t live there should just butt out and mind their own business?

      And when it comes to the idea that the prospect of all those $50,000 to $75,000/year mining jobs are the most important thing involved, if mining and those mining jobs are such a great thing, how come there’s such a pressing need for more mining jobs?

      • Submitted by joe smith on 04/15/2015 - 11:22 am.

        Bill, we have hundreds of the 65,000 to $90,000 jobs with taconite we just need hundreds more with copper & nickel. Didn’t know there was a limit on good paying jobs. I do think Betty needs to run her district and stay out of Range issues.

        When the EPA, MPCA & DNR say Polymet has passed all standards for copper mining, I don’t know why Betty and the Go Green crowd should be upset. The Go Green crowd has used EPA, MPCA & DNR rulings steady to stifle businesses they felt were harming the environment . If and when Polymet gets permitted they will comply with water standards and they should let the mining begin.

        • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 04/15/2015 - 11:41 am.

          Joe, what is missing is hard data.

          Thus far the SDEIS has been entirely speculation concerning untested technologies. They don’t have hard data. As far as regulation is concerned, we can’t even fully regulate the taconite processing plants. Again, how many plants have been operating with expired permits or variances? Please explain how that is complying with the standard. History is not on your side.

  3. Submitted by Jane Reyer on 04/14/2015 - 05:16 pm.

    PolyMet and Twin Metals

    Although I am fully in support of McCollum’s bill, I take issue with the idea that the Lake Superior basin is less environmentally sensitive than the Boundary Waters. Although they are in different watersheds, the ecosystems, wildlife habitat, and waters on either side of the Laurentian Divide are very much the same. The PolyMet Mine would obliterate close to 1,000 acres of wetlands of pre-European condition. It would destroy 700 acres of a forest ecosystem that is considered imperiled in Minnesota, and that will be impossible to replace. It is likely to further degrade downstream waters that are already polluted from taconite mining, and it will present more than five hundred years of risk to the St. Louis River and Lake Superior if water treatment and systems maintenance ever fail or are discontinued — which over the course of five hundred years is a certainty.

    The PolyMet Mine is not proposed for an empty land devoid of value. In fact, because it is proposed as a surface rather than underground mine, its environmental impacts are likely to be every bit as devastating as those on the edge of the Boundary Waters.

    In light of its size and purity, Lake Superior is arguably the most valuable resource on the planet. Almost twenty years ago, the people of the Lake Superior basin came together and agreed on a “Binational Program” to restore and protect the waters and ecosystems of the Lake Superior basin, including completely eliminating discharges and emissions of mercury within the basin by 2020. Even knowing that most of our mercury contamination comes from outside the watershed, we wanted to let the world know that this watershed is so valuable that as its stewards, we are willing to be at the forefront of whatever it takes to safeguard it. This program was not some pipe dream of environmental organizations; it was signed by the governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. How quickly we forget. Not only have we lost sight of our goals for existing industry, we are considering allowing new mercury emissions.

    All of our waters are precious, and all of the waters of Northeastern Minnesota are vulnerable.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/15/2015 - 01:38 am.

      Wonderfully said…

      “In light of its size and purity, Lake Superior is arguably the most valuable resource on the planet.”

      Not just that – everything you said is true and well well said – but I’ve been in love with Lake Superior ever since I met it, and that sentence in particular hits the nail of the heart of the matter on the head… All the supposedly Super Smart folks talking about the prospects of massive “economic gain,” jobs, etc., yet willing to take the risk of ruining, as you put it, what just may be the most valuable asset on the planet.

      1. Lake Superior is, by surface area, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

      2. The surface area of Lake Superior (31,700 square miles or 82,170 square kilometers) is greater than the combined areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

      3. Lake Superior contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, even throwing in two extra Lake Eries. Its volume is second only to Russia’s Lake Baikal.

      4. Lake Superior contains 10% of all the earth’s fresh surface water.

      (Please re-read number 4.)

      5. There is enough water in Lake Superior (3,000,000,000,000,000 — or 3 quadrillion — gallons) to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot.

      6. The deepest point in Lake Superior (about 40 miles north of Munising, Michigan) is 1,300 feet (400 meters) below the surface.

      7. Over 300 streams and rivers empty into Lake Superior.

      8. The Lake Superior watershed region ranges in size from 160 miles inland near Wabakimi Provincial Park to only 5 miles inland from Pictured Rocks National Seashore.

      9. The Lake Superior shoreline, if straightened out, could connect Duluth and the Bahama Islands.

      10. The average underwater visibility of Lake Superior is 27 feet, making it easily the cleanest and clearest of the Great Lakes. Underwater visibility in places reaches 100 feet. Lake Superior has been described as “the most oligotrophic lake in the world.”

      (And more at…)

      And, as the rest of what you had to say pointed out, that’s just PART of the EVEN BIGGER set of Minnesota natural assets so many people are willing to put at risk for the sake of a relative handful of short-term boom/bust jobs (and huge financial gains for people no one will ever know about, let alone meet, who live in places like Switzerland, South Africa, Germany, and Who Knows Where?).

      And the people that say it’s worth the risk call themselves “conservatives” or “clear-eyed practical Minnesotans with everyone’s best interests at heart.”

      As they say, “Please… Give me break.”

      From the business management/sound economics point of view there is nothing at all conservative or practical about risk analysis practices that come to a conclusion like that. If I was the chairman of the board and/or chief executive officer of Minnesota, Inc., and the head of the risk management department came in and presented a proposal like that I’d fire him or her on the spot and offer them a generous severance package and glowing letter of recommendation IF they’d agree to do everything in their power to get themselves hired by my biggest (geographically distant) competitor.

      Anyway… Please keep saying what you’re saying here. You say it very well.

  4. Submitted by Scott Slocum on 04/14/2015 - 06:19 pm.

    Smart Plans

    These are smart, long-range economic plans to protect the waters of the BWCAW and Rainy River Watershed from centuries of toxic drainage from sulfide mine tailings. The only way the current containment plans could meet “standards” is if the standards are insufficient. One advantage of federal standards is that, ideally, they’re less influenced by local special interests, and more in tune with the public interest in long-term environmental quality and economic cost/benefit.

    Employment and industrial production are important, but they can’t be justified at a net public loss. When we can come up with a “green” long-term mining and toxic-containment & treatment plan, then we’ll be able to go ahead with these mines. But before then, it looks like we’ll need to develop some better “green” technology (which also provide employment and industrial production).

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/14/2015 - 07:28 pm.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I admit watching McCollum’s first foray out of the broom closet go down in flames will be entertaining.

  6. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/14/2015 - 09:14 pm.

    Betty – such a great legislative record….

    Has Betty been able to “get anything done” in congress in recent years or is she just an “obstructionist?”

  7. Submitted by joe smith on 04/14/2015 - 09:54 pm.

    If you drew a line from Duluth to International Falls most of the area east to Canadian border and Lake Superior is wetlands and forest. The 1,700 acres you are talking about Polymet mining on isn’t even a dot on the map of the hundreds of square miles of lakes, wetlands and forests. It won’t harm wildlife one bit. What rivers and waters up here are polluted by taconite mining?

    The 2 natural resources we have up here are trees/logging and mining. People all across our country and world need lumber, minerals and the steel that we can help produce. Those are good paying jobs and can help this area’s younger people have hope for the future. If green technology was creating hundreds of good paying jobs up here I would be all for it, it isn’t happening.

    I was born on the Range and my father and grandfather were miners. I have had a place on a lake 40 minutes west of proposed Polymet site for 45 yrs. I love this area and want nothing but the best for my friends children and grandchildren that still call the Range home. By using our 2 resources we can create hundreds of jobs that will keep the Range vibrant. When the EPA, MPCA & DNR make a ruling folks agree with they are stewards of the environment, when they give a permit for copper mining they are sellouts and irresponsible. Can’t have it both ways.

    Equal footing doctrine gives States the right to own the land inside their borders and I don’t understand why the Federal Govt owns State land.

    • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 04/15/2015 - 11:46 am.

      What water up here are polluted by taconite mining?

      Joe, this is well-established. But, you can begin here:

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/15/2015 - 01:56 pm.


      Mining is like a drug addiction, you’re constantly looking for another fix, and you don’t really care about the consequences of finding it. Perhaps if your grandfather’s generation had been more keen on finding a new way for the Range to prosper, instead of making the populace wholly owned subsidiaries of mining companies who never gave a rip about you and yours or the land you inhabit, you wouldn’t find yourself in this predicament.

    • Submitted by Don L. Watson on 04/15/2015 - 04:20 pm.

      Sulfide mining is much more toxic than iron or taconite mining. There has never been a sulfide mine in a water-rich environment that hasn’t polluted the environment. Mines put in by the Romans in sulfide bearing rocks are still leaching heavy metals and sulfuric acid, by air and water a thousand + years later.

      As we are seeing now in the Iron Range, mining’s boom and bust nature leaves mining communities impoverished. Abandoned ghost towns and impoverished communities from Alaska to Appalachia are examples of what the dirtiest industry in the world leaves behind. Many of the people who live in the Minnesota Arrowhead make their living in the outdoor industry and rightly see sulfide mining as a threat to the BWCA and their livelihood.

  8. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/15/2015 - 12:00 am.

    Yep !

    Protect the water. Is it so difficulty to grasp the imporatance of water ? Really is it. My father was the last in the line to depend on mining for a “Livelihood.” I am sure he is turning over in his grave in Hibbing at those who defend mining at all costs. Many parents “shooed” their chindren out of there because they cleartly understood the lake of future in mining. I am glad mine did. However that being said I clearly understand the need for lean water over jobs. How many people could be employed keeping the water clean at all costs ? The fact of the matter is there is no profit for the vampire mine owners to get rich with and therefore clean water protection is secondary. It is not about jobs it is about cash for a certain class.

  9. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 04/15/2015 - 10:12 am.

    A safe play

    Betty wouldn’t push a bill like this when Democrats ran the House because it might pass and then she would be unpopular in MN. Push it in a GOP House where it doesn’t have a chance, but it advertises her green credentials. It’s all politics, all the time.

  10. Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 04/15/2015 - 08:15 pm.

    Why are any Minnesotans agreeing to pollute our waters?

    This is about protecting waters that first and foremost belong to all Minnesotans, waters that are then also to be protected for the nation.

    PolyMet, Twin Metals, and every other sulfide mining company proposing to mine in Minnesota claim that reverse osmosis is the process that will protect our waters. It will not. Reverse osmosis does not make the toxic contamination produced by sulfide mining magically disappear. In actuality we are being told to allow foreign mining corporations to pollute our waters.

    Recently, I received an email from a mining remediation expert who said the following: “Reverse osmosis isn’t ‘treatment.’ It is only SEPARATION. RO sends contaminated water through a semi-permeable membrane at immense pressures, yielding ‘permeate’ (more or less clean) and ‘concentrate,’ the concentrated glop consisting of the entire catalog of contaminants. THE CONCENTRATE EQUALS ABOUT 1/4 TO 1/3 OF THE ORIGINAL VOLUME OF WHAT’S FED INTO THE SYSTEM! If you don’t have a place to put the concentrated contaminants, then you shouldn’t do RO! At all.“

    Minnesotans need to understand that our waters will be polluted. There is no safe way to contain the immense volume of concentrated contaminants (in reality hazardous waste) for perpetuity in our water-intensive state; which is probably why the issue was not appropriately addressed in PolyMet’s SDEIS. In fact, there was no guarantee that reverse osmosis would even be used, let alone that any actual plan existed to deal with the concentrated contaminants.


  11. Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/15/2015 - 10:25 pm.

    Dear Everyone that’s posted a comment here…

    You’re invited!

    Would be really and truly interested in reading your comments on today’s Community Voices article:

    Come on now… Put your thinking cap on and get busy!

  12. Submitted by Amy Farland on 04/17/2015 - 05:29 pm.


    Thank you Rep. McCollum.

  13. Submitted by lee wick on 04/18/2015 - 12:29 pm.

    Creating Jobs

    Why do politicians claim everything they want to do will create jobs (when they won’t) yet are against any project guaranteed to create jobs? Maybe if projects were all government owned with government employees projects would evolve faster. Can’t have enough government employees.

  14. Submitted by Anthony Walsh on 04/20/2015 - 11:38 am.


    “Can you point to a comparable mine that was successfully closed?”

    ( Crickets chirping )

    Forget all that, this is 20 years of good jobs!

    Remember “Jobs, jobs , jobs”?

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