Monday, May 12, 2008
The new mining boom in Northern Minnesota
I went to my first Izaak Walton League meeting last Wednesday. It was a sobering event. The talk was on a new Copper Sulfide Mine that was going up in Northern Minnesota. I had thought that it might be a more social event, meet some people maybe have a beer, tell some tall tales about fish long as your arm etc. That however was not the case. Instead I was put through a two hour horror fest of learning about the future plans of Minnesota Mining. It would seem that our insatiable societies need for more copper, more minerals for electronics has restored a mining industry that had left the building a few decades ago. I had heard about the mines near Birch Lake but certainly the press has not reported that it is not just one isolated mine near the BWCA that is in the permit process but nearer to the number of 20! On four or five major watersheds, some like the Mississippi, St.Louis, Kawishiwi, Root and Nemadji.
The project that was specifically spoken about was the Polymet Project on the shores of the Partridge River. This really perked my interest as the Partridge drains directly into the St.Louis River , on the banks of which I live. So after an hour and a half of all the respective parties concerned about the project speaking about the possible ramifications of the project the Ikes had a representative of PolyMet stand up and take questions.
At this point in the meeting we had not yet met the representative. I thought to myself about how hard this was going to be for that person, a room full of angry citizens, anglers and otherwise old men. I was however, expecting a pro, a slick polished "Thank you For Smoking type person. Well you can imagine my shock when a shy, demure and otherwise unremarkable person walked to the front of the room. I cant recall the womans name, and I would not post it anyway but suffice to say she was perhaps the worst spokesperson I have ever seen in public. After hearing time after time by the mines press and sound bites on NPR it looked like Polymet had grabbed the last person at the office that night and sent her down to the Ikes meeting. She could not answer questions, would not even look at the questioner and was just barely able to string together a coherent sentence. All I could think was that I was now more scared than I had been when I entered the building. They want us to trust the system, they want us to trust the science, they want us to have faith in the staff, in the people and they send us the strongest voice they have and it is a whisper. I am not sure and I hope I am wrong but I have a feeling that MN is about to enter into an extremely ugly period in its environmental history.