Rebecca Otto, Minnesota's State Auditor, has what I think is a wonderful opinion piece in today's Star Tribune, explaining her "No" vote on sulfide mining leases. The Minnesota Executive Council recently approved 31 nonferrous leases. Go read the whole article, we'll be here when you get back.
Finished, good. Thanks for coming back. There's a long list of environmental organizations with long, long lists of complaints and concerns about sulfide mining: Friends of the Boundary Waters, National Wildlife Federation, and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy among others. What troubles me even more deeply, however, is the September 26, 2013 report from Minnesota Public Radio that "A Majority of Minnesotans are Unaware of the Proposed Mining Projects." I know we all lead busy lives. Some of us have even started to minimize our reliance on "mainstream media" in the U.S. because they often fail to report on stories that concern us. We do need to be aware of potential threats to our local treasures though, don't we? Road cuts through rock are tough enough to deal with. How many of our lakes and streams don't meet water quality standards now? How well have we done protecting the groundwater that supports White Bear Lake? Is it only about jobs?
Jobs are important. I'm not arguing against jobs. Mining jobs no doubt pay more than the service jobs associated with tourism. But, how many mining jobs, for how long, will be needed to compensate for lost jobs if tourists start avoiding northern Minnesota because is has become the environmental disaster that many fear? How many of the good paying jobs will go to folks already living in the area? I wonder if the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement will take a look at the net economic gains or if we'll have to raise that concern as part of the public comment process?
I'm not against mining. This is being typed on a computer with lots of metal and rare earth metal used to produce it. I am against subsidizing corporate profits through inadequate social and environmental safeguards being applied to risky ventures. (I'm also not in favor of massive public subsidies for NFL team owners, but that's another post.) I'm particularly against the public having to assume any anticipated environmental costs over a 500 year period, when "The average life expectancy of a multinational corporation-Fortune 500 or its equivalent-is between 40 and 50 years." This all brings back the dismay I experienced when the U.S. approved NAFTA with what seemed to me and some others to be grossly inadequate social and environmental safeguards. I find it enough of a challenge dealing with the impact of a democratically elected government on my life and environment. As corporations (persons according to the Supreme Court) become the electors of our government, my concerns become elevated. How about yours? What kind of Minnesota do you want to live in? Richard Hugo gives us food for thought with this poem about life after the mines have closed.
Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg
You might come here Sunday on a whim.Say your life broke down. The last good kissyou had was years ago. You walk these streetslaid out by the insane, past hotelsthat didn’t last, bars that did, the tortured tryof local drivers to accelerate their lives.Only churches are kept up. The jailturned 70 this year. The only prisoneris always in, not knowing what he’s done.
The principal supporting business nowis rage. Hatred of the various graysthe mountain sends, hatred of the mill,The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girlswho leave each year for Butte. One goodrestaurant and bars can’t wipe the boredom out.The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines,a dance floor built on springs—all memory resolves itself in gaze,in panoramic green you know the cattle eator two stacks high above the town,two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapsefor fifty years that won’t fall finally down.
Isn’t this your life? That ancient kissstill burning out your eyes? Isn’t this defeatso accurate, the church bell simply seemsa pure announcement: ring and no one comes?Don’t empty houses ring? Are magnesiumand scorn sufficient to support a town,not just Philipsburg, but townsof towering blondes, good jazz and boozethe world will never let you haveuntil the town you came from dies inside?
Say no to yourself. The old man, twentywhen the jail was built, still laughsalthough his lips collapse. Someday soon,he says, I’ll go to sleep and not wake up.You tell him no. You’re talking to yourself.The car that brought you here still runs.The money you buy lunch with,no matter where it’s mined, is silverand the girl who serves your foodis slender and her red hair lights the wall.
Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. (Thank you, Rebecca!)