Thursday, November 12, 2015

We can do better than what's proposed for PolyMet.

There's an interesting perspective on the PolyMet project background in today's MinnPost. Briana Bierschbach's How the specter of the decades-long fight over the BWCA hangs over PolyMet provides some worthwhile historical perspective. Unfortunately, from my perspective, it leaves out some other significant pieces of northern Minnesota's history and part of the current situation when it comes to mining, the Boundary Waters and pollution.

The Reserve Mining case legacy was largely about the effects of waste rock pollution and its potential impacts on human health (Duluth's water supply). We currently have a pollution issue that also affects human health, this time primarily human children. According to the Duluth News Tribune, "a study released in February 2012 by the Minnesota Department of Health showed that one out of every 10 babies born in the Lake Superior region of Minnesota had unsafe levels of toxic mercury in his or her bloodstream." There are sources other than metals mining that contribute mercury to the problem, but adding more mercury isn't a step in the right direction, or should the wastewater be diverted to the Boundary Waters where there are fewer people?

northern Minnesota's full of rocks and hard places
northern Minnesota's full of rocks and hard places
Photo by J. Harrington

PolyMet officials claim they will meet all federal and state environmental requirements. If they do, it might be the first mining project to ever succeed at that since contemporary environmental regulations were adopted. More to the point however, as of 2015, state and federal environmental regulations still aren't enough to protect public health nor the public's pocketbook. Has PolyMet volunteered to exceed minimal requirements, you know, the basics needed to get permitted to operate? We should expect better, but, until mining has demonstrated a consistent ability to meet stringent environmental and financial requirements, let's not use northern Minnesota as a guinea pig. Promises are easy to make and, as many politicians know too well, often hard to keep. Ask your politicians how they expect promises to be kept after they've left office. How can we expect more from PolyMet? As another indiction of the problems we've created for ourselves, skim through the concerns about cleanup costs at the Freeway Landfill in Burnsville. Can't we do better? Has congress given the railroads three more years, in addition to the eight they've already had, to allow railroads to improve train safety? Has congress banned oil trains in the interim? How many politicians work or live in a blast zone? Do you see a pattern here? What about PolyMet would make really improve all of Minnesota? I can't hear you. Jobs? Use alternative economic development strategies that don't rely on volatile mining employment. We've learned to clean up our logging slash. Maybe mine pollution and tailings will be next. Think about it.

Driving at Night

Up north, the dashboard lights of the family car
gleam in memory, the radio
plays to itself as I drive
my father plied the highways
while my mother talked, she tried to hide
that low lilt, that Finnish brogue,
in the back seat, my sisters and I
our eyes always tied to the Big Dipper
I watch it still
on summer evenings, as the fireflies stream
above the ditches and moths smack
into the windshield and the wildlife's
red eyes bore out from the dark forests
we flew by, then scattered like the last bit of star
light years before.
It's like a different country, the past
we made wishes on unnamed falling stars
that I've forgotten, that maybe were granted
because I wished for love.  

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.