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Given PolyMet’s plans, passage of bill rolling back mining review is a red flag

Next time you find yourself near a registered motor vehicle or anywhere a Minnesota license plate can be found, take a look at one. Odds are you’ll see two people in a canoe on a lake just below our state’s name. The word “Minnesota” itself comes from the Dakota Indian word meaning “sky-tinted water.” Water is undeniably an integral part of our state heritage. We have fun on water. We live near water. We drink water.

PolyMet is working hard to get approval for an open-pit sulfide mining project that could result in acid mine drainage into the St. Louis River basin, which runs into Lake Superior. This acid mine drainage would increase levels of dangerous mercury in the lake, Duluth’s primary source of drinking water.

Sulfide mining doesn’t have a reputation for being clean. However, PolyMet says on its website that in order to demonstrate its commitment to the environment, it will, among other things “be open and transparent regarding environmental review and permitting, performance and reporting.” This promise would be a lot more reassuring if the U.S. House of Representatives had not just passed a bill sponsored by the former president of the National Mining Association that would dramatically roll back existing environmental review laws for mining-project proposals.

To me, the passage of this bill in the house is a blaring red flag. We should all carefully question its implications. While PolyMet purports to take its environmental impact seriously, the industry it is a part of seeks to reduce those protections in place to ensure proper environmental conduct. Can we risk allowing the historically dirty sulfide mining industry with such a questionable commitment to environmental protection to operate so close to our precious water? I don’t think we can.

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