Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mining's future?

There's an institution known as the World Economic Forum. Through their Mining and Metals team they produced a 2014 Scoping Paper: Mining and Metals in a Sustainable World. Over the next several weeks, we'll probably be mentioning that and some other resources we've recently come across. To begin with, though, please skim this paragraph from page 7 of that paper and pay particular attention to the last sentence.
For the mining and metals sector, the most relevant trends are in energy, materials, transportation and buildings. The sector has an opportunity to strategically consider how these trends could affect both the demand for products and the means of providing sufficient supply. The project planning cycles for mining and metals companies are sufficiently long that they can plan today for how they’ll operate in a sustainable world. Critically, communities, civil society, investors or governments will not tolerate unsustainable mining and metals companies, so a proactive response is imperative.

St. Louis River
St. Louis River
Photo by J. Harrington

Has Minnesota made any assessment that mining and metals companies are sustainable? Should we? Obviously, from my perspective that's a rhetorical question. Northern Minnesota is once again experiencing the bust part of mining's perpetual boon and bust cycle. and yet some Minnesotans are ardently pursuing a different type of mining, one that has the same boom and bust characteristics but even greater potential for negative environmental impacts. I bet you've heard the old saying about one definition of insanity: "doing the same thing and expecting different results." Minnesota's inaction on enforcing existing environmental requirements (why are settlement agreements needed to get MPCA to issue  overdue air quality permits to protect public health; did the St. Louis River need to be designated among the most endangered rivers in the nation? ) The St. Louis was already identified as a "Great Lakes Area of Concern" by the USEPA. If the World Economic Forum claims that "communities, civil society, investors or governments will not tolerate unsustainable mining and metals companies" and Minnesota appears to be notably more tolerant of pollution to create jobs that come and go based on the world economy, what does that say about us? Think about it, please. How much of Minnesota's environment are we willing to write off. Don't forget there are lots of farmers saying pollution abatement isn't their job if they have to give up anything. So we've got mining polluting northern Minnesota's air and water, agriculture taking care of the south and urban development in the middle. Are we all waiting for someone else to go first so we can be the "free rider" as we meet ambient standards? Does that work?

National Poetry Month

River Politics

By Adam Vines 

I spit my smack,

Jim slugs his Jack,

Rob stews his lack,

Carey prepares his rack,

herons hunker on blowdowns,

deer wait on high moon for their rounds,

and the campfire

might as well be an empire

we all

watch dissolve

(in the slough, a carp roll, a splash)

into ash.

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