After staying neutral on the prospect of a new copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota for several years, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has now said he believes it should be allowed to open.
“Nothing of that magnitude is risk free but I think it’s a risk worth taking and I support the project,” Dayton told the Pioneer Press.
Dayton also said the project must still go through state and federal permitting, and his endorsement should not affect those processes.
The governor, who served as state auditor from 1990 to 1995, also said he is committed to ensuring the state receives adequate assurances that the mine won’t ultimately force taxpayers to cover clean-up costs. The paper reported he participated in a meeting on the subject last week.
The PolyMet project would be located on the east end of the Iron Range, near the headwaters of the St. Louis River, the largest Minnesota tributary to Lake Superior. Copper-nickel mining extracts metals from sulfide ore, a process which has caused serious pollution at other mines. PolyMet anticipates the mine would cause contaminated runoff for up to 500 years, requiring some form of treatment before it can be safely discharged.
On the other side of the Laurentian Divide, where waters flow toward the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and eventually reach Hudson Bay, the Twin Metals project is still years away from environmental review and permitting. Dayton said it causes more concern for him because of its potential to impact the wilderness.