A forum hosted by the Minnesota Environmental Initiative yesterday previewed the discussion that’s likely to take place in more official precincts when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for PolyMet Mining Corporation’s proposed NorthMet copper-nickel mine near Babbit is released later this fall.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials charged with permitting for the project as well as stakeholders from the mining and environmental communities, discussed the costs and benefits of what could be the first “non-ferrous” mining operations in Minnesota.
Mining proponents assert that the projects will bring high-paying jobs to the region and provide a domestic source for metals that are vital to modern life. Environmental advocates are concerned about the impacts the mines may have on water quality, since the sulfide rock in which the metals are deposited produce acid when it comes in contact with water and oxygen.
In back-to-back presentations that showed the divide on the issue, Dr. David Chambers of the Center for Science in the Public Participation noted a study that found that 76% of sulfide mines studies showed water quality impairments. Frank Ongaro, the executive director of MiningMinnesota, dismissed the study noting that it looked at a few mines, many of which used old technologies, and didn’t evaluate the mining operations most like PolyMet’s planned operation.
Questions from audience members focused on the likelihood that the economic impacts of the projects would be as significant as estimated and whether permitting procedures and regulations in place will properly assess risks and insure against potential environmental impacts.
MEI has archived the PowerPoint presentations from the forum HERE. Included in the archives is timeline information for the DNR and Minnesota Pollution Contral Agency’s environmental assessment and permitting process.