Copper-sulfide mining in northeastern Minnesota is not worth the risk

In considering whether copper-nickel mining should be approved in Minnesota, we should weigh all the positives and negatives of the mine, including its impact on the local economy and the long-term effects on the environment. In my opinion, the potential risk of impact to the long-term health of the environment outweighs the shorter-term benefits to the local economy.

I acknowledge that there are advantages to building a mine in Minnesota. The proposed mining company, PolyMet, has offered several reasons for its proposed NorthMet mine. PolyMet’s biggest reason for having the mine in Minnesota is the multiple job opportunities for engineers and other workers around northeastern Minnesota. This is important because there have been many job layoffs in the area proposed for the mine. PolyMet further argues that it is a highly experienced mining company with a strong safety record and would be subject to big fines if the mine experienced a leak.

However, there are many disadvantages. One of the major concerns is pollution, for instance long-term acid and toxic-metal water pollution, mercury contamination in fish and plants, plus expensive clean-up operations and associated pollution. If mines were built near the Boundary Waters, some potential problems would include air pollution, fewer trees, less free space, and increased noise. The main pollution sources would include pit walls, waste rock piles and tailings basins. On top of all that there is sulfuric acid, which is created when sulfide, oxygen and water combine. 

While I agree that creating new jobs in northeastern Minnesota would be an important outcome of the mine, the disasters of a leak could go on for decades, if not centuries. A leak or a mine closure due to economic conditions could hurt the economy in the long term — far more than any near-term benefit. Therefore, copper-sulfide mining should not be approved in Minnesota

Anna Bryant is an eighth-grade student at Minnetonka Middle School East.

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