Monday, November 2, 2015

Let BWCAW be BWCAW, hold PolyMet in "Reserve"

One of northern Minnesota's hard rock mining supporters asserts
"Polymet will be so scrutinized by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and volunteer organizations, there’s no chance polluted water will be discharged into the St. Louis River."
St. Louis River, between rocks and hard places
St. Louis River, between rocks and hard places
Photo by J. Harrington

We'll pass over the fact that scrutiny usually doesn't prevent pollution, it calls attention to it after the fact. Humans are fallible. Human processes are fallible. Mistakes happen, as EPA (Gold King mine) and the government of British Columbia (Mount Polley) have recently relearned. More to the point I want to make, the good folks at MIT, most of whom I assume have never heard of PolyMet, have looked into making mining more socially and environmentally acceptable through "green mining." They also put their analysis in the context of global strategic resources (metals), which is one of the points I think the Duluth(?) writer linked above was trying to capture. Here's the "bottom line" from MIT:
"So opening new, cleaner mines will likely occur over a 15-25 year timeline. This process will be sped up by open-source technology and an international regulatory body.

"By 2015: The environmental group dedicated to mine clean up and ratings is organized. Governments and mining companies can begin devising a financial scheme for initial funding of this group. Countries interested in mining include a budget for research and development in their plans. An environmental regulatory body will oversee the creation of a point system for implementing green technology detailed above (see Environmental Regulations page). Illegal and unregulated mines will begin to be shut down or legalized. Cut-off grades are reevaluated. Current mines begin implementing the green technology techniques, and new mines will include them in their initial start-up costs.
By 2020: The environmental group dedicated to mine cleanup begins the first mine cleanup project. The point system begins to be used as a method for evaluating a mine's environmental effects. All current mines are expected to be held to the new, stricter standards, while the international regulatory body in conjunction with the different governments should have shut down almost all unregulated mines.
2025-2035: Cleaner mining practices will become more commonplace as previously unregulated mines reopen.
Past 2030: All implemented procedures continue to grow and develop. Illegal mining should be completely shut down and regulations will have improved the environmental footprint of mining. Atmospheric emissions and wastewater will be minimized. Shut down mines will be cleaned and reclaimed by the local community."
My takeaway, and I urge you to visit the MIT site and review additional material, is that it's in Minnesota's best interest to forestall development of copper-nickel mining until the world-wide mining industry is consistently developing and operating "green mines" and has an established track record showing that the BWCAW and the St. Louis River can be protected based on experience gained elsewhere. Those resources are too valuable to serve as the locale for a test case in Minnesota. Let the mining industry learn to ride without training wheels somewhere less vulnerable to human error.

Mistakes

By Rae Armantrout
1

The subject will claim
that she has been taken
to the wrong place.

That the room
she is brought back to
is not the room she left.

That these comings and goings
are happening
to someone else,

are gathering momentum
controlled by a secret
mechanism.

That she needs to tell
someone.

               2

I walk out the door
to the stone bench

without meaning to
(without meaning it?),

each step
jarring my frame

as it would anyone’s


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