Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mining the future?

There's some moderately worthwhile coverage on the PolyMet proposal in today's Strib. Among other things, it makes it clear to me that we need legislative changes to require financial assurance amounts included in Environmental Impact Statement, never mind this nonsense of "we'll address that in the permitting process." To see if my perspective had me out in left field, without a glove, all by myself, I went and looked at a copy of the USEPA's comments on the original DEIS. Among other things, EPA Region V wrote:
Long-term post-closure treatment will be necessary to protect water quality; therefore, EPA believes financial assurance information should have been included in the DEIS. The amount and viability of financial assurance are critical factors in determining the effectiveness of these activities, and EPA believes it is necessary to analyze and disclose financial assurance factors in the DEIS to determine the significance of the impacts and inform decisions about the project. Financial assurance information includes a description of State and/or federal agency requirements, closure costs, estimated bond amounts needed for each closure and reclamation activity, and how the bonds should be modified should additional temporary, long-term, or perpetual treatment and/or remediation needs be determined during operations. [February 18, 2010 letter]
Sawtooth Mountains, northern Minnesota
Sawtooth Mountains, northern Minnesota © harrington
I'm going to be absolutely fascinated to see EPA's comments on the current (or subsequent) version of the SEIS and whether or not it's found adequate. In the meantime, I take strong exception to the way the Strib has cast the debate of two visions for the future on northern Minnesota as jobs versus the environment. I think it's about a sustainable Minnesota versus more boom and bust economy dependent on mining. The economy on the Iron Range is growing and diversifying, as noted previously in My Minnesota and elsewhere. The argument that we use copper and nickel in our gadgets and it has to come from somewhere has a counterpoint. Our gadgets could be more repairable (jobs anyone?) and recycling of metals could take place in this country instead of overseas (jobs anyone?). I know that sustainable development is making inroads on the Iron Range. The Hibbing Community College is working toward a sustainable campus. Minnesota's Sustainable Forestry Initiative is working with Habitat for Humanity. Instead of this impressive battle about 20 years worth of employment, can't we see more resources put into a broader transformation of the economy to something that could last? As Jane Hirshfield writes, The Decision on our future isn't yet made.
Lake Superior, northern Minnesota
Lake Superior, northern Minnesota  © harrington

The Decision

By Jane Hirshfield 

There is a moment before a shape
hardens, a color sets.
Before the fixative or heat of   kiln.
The letter might still be taken
from the mailbox.
The hand held back by the elbow,
the word kept between the larynx pulse   
and the amplifying drum-skin of the room’s air.
The thorax of an ant is not as narrow.
The green coat on old copper weighs more.   
Yet something slips through it —
looks around,
sets out in the new direction, for other lands.
Not into exile, not into hope. Simply changed.
As a sandy track-rut changes when called a Silk Road:
it cannot be after turned back from.

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