Old Mine Drainage Worries Advocates

The drainage of pollutants from an abandoned mine near Ely coupled with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency allegedly lax oversight of the situation has environmental advocates concerned about the state’s ability to oversee the large copper-nickel mines proposed for the area.

The Star Tribune has the story HERE.

The decades-long drainage of acid, sulfates, toxic metals, and other pollutants from the waste piles of the Dunka Mine raise questions about the state agency’s track record of environmental enforcement, say environmental advocacy organizations like WaterLegacy and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. Vigilant enforcement of regulations would be crucial, the advocates say, if new copper-nickel mining proposals for the area come to fruition.

Acknowledging the Dunka Mine pollution after environmental advocates brought it to the agency’s attention last year, the MPCA entered into a legal agreement with Cliffs Natural Resources, which owns the property. The company paid a $58,000 fine and agreed to a monitoring and pollution reduction schedule.  The company, however, has not been able to bring all of the pollution levels back into compliance.

The environmental advocacy group WaterLegacy recently said in a letter to the MPCA that the agency is using standards that are not sufficient to protect water quality and wildlife. The group wants the MPCA to accelerate the regulatory process and make sure the company adheres strictly to state and federal pollution standards.

Beyond cleaning up drainage from the Dunka Mine, the advocates want the MPCA to show it will hold mining polluters to a high standard.

PolyMet Mining has plans for a $600 million copper-nickel mine in the area, near Babbitt. Duluth Metals Ltd. is planning large mine close to the location of the Dunka Mine.

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