Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Is it a hoax that PolyMet is the solution and not the problem?

Climate change, and it's deniers, are partially responsible for one of my all time favorite cartoons, the one in which an audience member at an adapting to climate change conference says to the person sitting nearby, "what if it's all a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?" It occurs to me that the same question could be raised regarding the economy of Minnesota's Iron Range. That is, we could have a serious discussion about the Range's future if it didn't seem as though the appearance of a neutral evaluation of more mining weren't looking more and more like a hoax. Apparently, there is no serious mining-related environmental problem or public health issue that can't be successfully mitigated. For me, that ranks right up there with claims that global warming is a hoax.

mining northern Minnesota, rocks and hard places everywhere
mining northern Minnesota, rocks and hard places everywhere
Photo by J. Harrington

I could buy into such a stretch of reasoning if not for the fact that some measures that would be environmentally less risky have been rejected as economically not viable for the PolyMet project. This, despite recent disasters related to the Mount Polley and the Germano mine tailings basin failures. A "git 'er done" mentality is also reflected in the recent rejection of a Health Impact Assessment. We're seeing a continuing slump and economic weakness in the mining industry that makes me wonder how many more potential disasters will be enabled, if necessary, to make sulfide mining economically viable in northern Minnesota. Check the FEIS and see if you can find an assessment of the mitigation that would be required should PolyMet proceed and suffer the same fate as Mt. Polley or Germano.

The taconite industry has secured reduced payment of royalties and electric costs due to the depressed state of the steel industry. Based on what we've seen so far, can we expect less "accommodation" for hard rock mining? I doubt it. On the other hand, it isn't clear to me that, from a global perspective, Minnesota's hard rock prospects are any healthier or competitive than it's taconite mining. Is it time to say enough to sacrificing our environment and subsidizing mining profits that go to investors and executives while we invest in a better future for northern Minnesota? If we leave it in the ground, it's value can only increase. If we further pollute the air, water and ground of northern Minnesota, we're destroying the value of assets that help support our quality of life. What if it's all a hoax and mining isn't the solution, it's the problem? If you agree that the risks outweigh the benefits to the state of Minnesota, here's how to let the Governor know, but do it before 4:30pm on Monday, December 14!

And Still It Comes

By Thomas Lux 

like a downhill brakes-burned freight train
full of pig iron ingots, full of lead   
life-size statues of Richard Nixon,
like an avalanche of smoke and black fog   
lashed by bent pins, the broken-off tips
of switchblade knives, the dust of dried offal,
remorseless, it comes, faster when you turn your back,   
faster when you turn to face it,   
like a fine rain, then colder showers,   
then downpour to razor sleet, then egg-size hail,
fist-size, then jagged
laser, shrapnel hail
thudding and tearing like footsteps   
of drunk gods or fathers; it comes   
polite, loutish, assured, suave,   
breathing through its mouth   
(which is a hole eaten by a cave),   
it comes like an elephant annoyed,   
like a black mamba terrified, it slides   
down the valley, grease on grease,   
like fire eating birds’ nests,
like fire melting the fuzz
off a baby’s skull, still it comes: mute   
and gorging, never
to cease, insatiable, gorging
and mute.

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