Saturday, April 23, 2016

Wishes for Minnesota's best

From time to time, we've noted efforts (largely going on elsewhere) focused on making mining more sustainable and responsible. Somehow we missed, until this morning, this article published in the guardian. As I read it, the regulatory and environmental "wounds" suffered thus far in the the PolyMet NorthMet project development may be, much like the rest of the industry's, self-inflicted, due to "... poor planning, inefficient operations and rising water and energy prices, ...."
"The costs of developing and running mines have escalated mainly due to poor planning, inefficient operations and rising water and energy prices, according to the white paper. Disputes among mining companies and local communities and governments have posed a particular challenge, causing about $25bn worth of projects being delayed or suspended worldwide, Cutifani said earlier this year."
St. Croix River near Pine City
St. Croix River near Pine City
Photo by J. Harrington
Our interest in this issue has increased markedly now that the same PolyMet organization is exploring options practically in our back yard, in a watershed tributary to one of Minnesota's most cherished rivers, the wild and scenic St. Croix.

History has shown pretty clearly that even moderately well run mining operations can and do create environmental disasters. That helps explain why Minnesota's environmental community seems committed to preventing mining of copper or other non-ferrous metals from sulfide ores. In most instances I think that's responsible, but it may not always be a successful tactic. We'll see how the permitting for PolyMet's NorthMet project plays out.

As a potentially useful alternative, or complement, to stopping mining, I'd like to see Minnesota structure a demonstration of what responsible mining can be like at its best, rather than have a "developing country" take that lead and make lots of money showing others how to do it. We won't get there as long as we keep structuring mine permitting and environmental reviews as win-lose "gotchas." Sustainable living requires cooperation and collaboration. Instead, we have need for reassurance from members of Congress, representing decreasing but noteworthy numbers of constituents that are miners, about the intentions of a federal administration responsible for preserving and protecting our common natural resources from inappropriate development.

It all reminds me of what a wise man pointed out some years ago. He asked me if I wanted to spend my life being right or being married. By way of answer, I've been lucky to be married for a long time to someone who recently shared with me this quotation from Shakespeare, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his birth and the sad event in Chanhassen this week.
Now cracks a noble heart.—Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!—
To which we'd add these lyrics from our own sweet Prince:
Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
We are all in this thing together and we all, too often, act as if that weren't true. Perhaps that helps explain why so many of us aren't princes.

Together

By Charles Wright

I wish I had the capacity
to see through my own death.
Some flash light, some force of flame
Picking out diamond points
of falling leaves and the river of stars.

This is the year I’m scraping the ice away from its sidewalks.
This is the year I’ve slid its shoes off.
This is the year I’ve started to keep it company,
and comb its hair.

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