How are we going to treat our Minnesota waters?

Last week I took a much-needed break from PolyMet’s SDEIS, and picked up a book to read about space exploration. “Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon.” It was enlightening — just not in the way I thought.

As Neil Armstrong put it:

Perhaps going to the Moon and back in itself isn’t all that important. But it is a big enough step to give people a new dimension in their thinking – a sort of enlightenment.

After all, the Earth itself is a spacecraft. It is an odd kind of spacecraft, since it carries its crew on the outside instead of the inside. But it’s pretty small. … From our position on the Earth it is difficult to observe where the Earth is and where it’s going, or what its future course might be. Hopefully, by getting a little farther away, both in the real sense and the figurative sense, we’ll be able to make some people step back and reconsider their mission to the Universe, to think of themselves as a group of people who constitute the crew of a spaceship going through the universe. If you’re going to run a spaceship, you’ve got to be pretty cautious about how you use your resources, how you use your crew, and how you treat your spacecraft.

So, how are we going to treat our spacecraft? On Minnesota’s figurative spacecraft water is our most important resource, arguably the greatest freshwater resources of our nation. And therein also lies the biggest problem with PolyMet’s SDEIS. There is no cumulative impact study of all sulfide mining proposed for our labyrinth of waters, where PolyMet would set the standard. Nor is there any cost-benefit analysis, for PolyMet or cumulatively.

We all use water. Water is more valuable than metals – without water all the metals in our spacecraft could not save us. Yet water is what the SDEIS fails to adequately address. It is proposing to use our waters as a sulfide-mining sewer, instead of unequivocally protecting Minnesota’s most valuable asset.

The SDEIS repeatedly states ways to minimize, mitigate, and treat water pollution for centuries, while avoiding the words “perpetual treatment.” The SDEIS never recognizes that perpetual maintenance is delusional and in direct opposition to state law. What about the 16 million gallons of untreated seepage each year?

Now we know that mine-site water modeling was based on incorrect numbers for groundwater flow rates, the same concern that tribal agency scientists have raised for years. And why are we even considering a project that has so little data it cannot factor in water-flow variables from multiple years?    

Minnesota’s metaphorical spacecraft is sitting on the launch pad. Its protection systems are failing. There is great political pressure to launch. Will mission control have the courage to say no? No action alternative. No sulfide mining.

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