I am writing this in response to C.A. Arneson’s commentary on 12/12/17 concerning copper nickel mining in northeast Minnesota.
The first point I would like to counter is concerning Rep. Rick Nolan’s bill HR 3115. Nolan’s bill is wholly designed to make sure that a land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service goes through in regard to the NorthMet Mine located outside of Hoyt Lakes. At no point is there any reference to the fact that both the U.S. Forest Service and PolyMet have agreed to the terms of the exchange already. If it wasn’t for the frivolous lawsuits filed by several environmental groups there would have been no need for HR 3115. These lawsuits claim that the land was undervalued when it was appraised. This is incorrect because PolyMet already owns the mineral rights to the land and the only thing of value is the timber on the land. Currently the land is valued at $550 an acre, which PolyMet has agreed to pay. Another fact: The Superior National Forest will gain more wetlands, lakeshore and readily accessible land after the exchange. This deal is a win for everyone involved.
The second point concerns Rep. Tom Emmer’s MINER Act. This bill concerns multiple things, but I am going to touch on just a few. The mineral leases involved had been issued in the 1960s and had been with several different companies over that time period. There never had been any problem concerning the reissuing of these until Twin Metals went to renew them this last time. An Environmental Impact Statement had been conducted over the period 2006 to 2012 with both the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management giving approval for test drilling in 2012. No real tangible reason was given for the nonrenewal, no due process involved at all. The MINER Act would renew the leases and give Twin Metals the fair chance at due process through NEPA once they develop a mine plan. The MINER Act also protects the Superior National Forest from unwarranted mineral withdrawals and National Monument designation without the approval of Congress. This gives local government and residents a voice in the process which was terribly missing in this whole mess. This again is a win for everyone who lives in national forests in Minnesota.
Finally let’s discuss the Tar Creek area surrounding Picher, Oklahoma. This area was mined from 1850 until the early 1960s for both lead and zinc. The time frame is very important since the mining started and ended long before environmental protections were even thought of, let alone in place. So comparing this mining area to what could maybe happen in northeast Minnesota is unrealistic at best and erroneous at the worst. How about comparing what could happen to the Stillwater Mine in Montana, Eagle Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or even closer yet the Flambeau Mine in Wisconsin. All of these have one common thread. They have NO pollution violations against them.
In closing, PolyMet has and is going through the most extensive permitting process ever undertaken in America. It has been ongoing for 13-plus years and is finally in the actual permit to mine stage. Twin Metals hasn’t even developed a plan yet and deserves the right to due process. Northeast Minnesota needs these well-paying jobs so that our area can thrive again. We believe that you can have both mining and clean water.
Michael Cole is the CEO of Minnesota Miners.