As Minnesotans’ knowledge of details about proposals to mine copper, nickel and other metals in northern Minnesota increases, support declines, according to two polls conducted this month.
Separate polls were used to survey Minnesotans across the state, and residents of the Eighth Congressional District, which contains the mineral deposits in question. The Mining Truth coalition, comprised of environmental organizations critical of the mine proposals, commissioned the polls, which were conducted by the national firm Public Policy Polling.
In a statement, Conservation Minnesota executive director Paul Austin said, “As the details of sulfide mining proposals become clear, Minnesotans are wary of taking such long-term risks for such short-term benefits. That’s why more than 12,000 people have asked Governor Dayton to insist on getting answers to all the important questions before these mines are allowed to proceed.”
The poll measured support for the mines before and after sharing key facts about the PolyMet proposal. Initially, respondents in the statewide poll opposed the projects 32 percent to 28 percent (with the rest unsure). Forty percent of northern Minnesota respondents supported the mines, while 27 percent opposed them and the rest were unsure.
But, when pollsters told respondents that the PolyMet mine “would operate for 20 years but would require hundreds of years of water treatment and monitoring after closure,” 45 percent of northern Minnesota respondents opposed the proposal, while 29 percent remained supportive. Given the same information, statewide opposition increased to 48 percent, with 25 percent still supporting the proposal.
Additionally, a majority of respondents in both polls believe mining should be prohibited in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The coalition recently announced that more than 12,000 people, from all 87 counties in Minnesota, have signed a petition to Governor Mark Dayton calling on him to deny any mining proposal if adequate answers aren’t received to four questions about protecting water and taxpayers, and ensuring safeguards are in place during and after mine closure.