Former MN governor and legislators call on Walz administration to prevent pollution from proposed mines

Kawishiwi Falls, downstream of the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine. (Joe Passe/Flickr)

Former two-term Republican governor of Minnesota, Arne Carlson, has written an open letter to the administration of Governor Tim Walz, urging action to prevent pollution from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine and associated projects. Carlson was joined in signing the letter by two past legislators and a Duluth businessman.

The letter begins by pointing out the increasingly dire state of Minnesota’s waters, with concerns rising about contamination and whether or not the supply is safe for the future. The writers, including former legislators Tom Berkelman and Janet Entzel and Duluth businessman Duke Skorich, also ask repeatedly why the Walz administration isn’t doing more to protect lakes, rivers, streams, and aquifers.

“How could our state’s leaders even think of processing a permit to mine resources knowing that there was a real threat of arsenic, mercury, asbestos, and cadmium entering the state’s water?” The group wrote.

The writers point out that Walz’s chief of staff, Chris Schmitter, to whom the letter is addressed, and his deputy, Karl Procaccini, both previously worked for the law firm that represents PolyMet. Procaccini served as outside counsel to the company. Carlson and his co-writers say that should have equipped them to warn state leaders about the proposal’s problems and the parties involved.

Problematic proposal

Arne Carlson (Jonathunder/Wikimedia)

Most of the letter is dedicated to concerns about Glencore, the Swiss conglomerate that owns PolyMet. The global commodities company has a recent track record of bribing foreign government officials, using child labor, and other corrupt practices.

“Despite Glencore’s lengthy international rap sheet, this administration is entrusting them with the BWCA and Lake Superior, leaving our most obvious question unanswered: Why is the state of Minnesota partnering with a corrupt entity?” they ask.

Carlson’s group particularly focused on the recently-finalized NewRange project, which essentially combines the proposed PolyMet mine with a nearby project led by the company Teck Resources.

“The fact that this mining project will more than double the size of the mine proposed by PolyMet when it sought to enter the permitting process opens the door to requiring this new operation to start the process anew,” they wrote. “To do otherwise would constitute a massive ‘bait and switch’ scheme and the state should be no part of it.”

Asking for action

Lastly, the group called for several steps to be taken by the state to ensure its water and other resources are not put at risk. They say a temporary moratorium should immediately be put in place on new mine permits — saying it actually should have been enacted in 2006 when PolyMet first submitted its proposal. While the permitting pause is in place, Carlson and his colleagues call for new laws to be enacted.

“This would involve placing all the necessary concerns into the permitting process including health, economic, quality of life, impact on wildlife and fish etc. as well as professional vetting of a prospective partner and a full review of their past mining record,” Carlson writes.

Several such laws are currently under consideration at the Minnesota State Capitol. One proposal would focus on keeping out “bad actors,” such as Glencore.

Other suggested steps include studying the potential for mines to pollute the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior, the forecast for the state’s water supply in the decade ahead, and the combined impact of several potential mines in the region.

The 88-year-old Carlson served as Minnesota’s governor between 1991 and 1999. Before defeating incumbent Rudy Perpich in the 1990 election, Carlson served three terms as State Auditor. Before that, he served for eight years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and got his political start on the Minneapolis City Council. Over the past 15 years, he has repeatedly endorsed and voted for Democratic candidates.

More information

Get Quetico Superior Wilderness News straight to your inbox

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap