Thursday, August 10, 2017

The "green economy" (and Minnesota's) can do fine without our copper

The lead opinion piece in today's Star Tribune is:

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan: The green economy needs Minnesota mining

As a constituent of Rep. Rick Nolan, I'll concede his sincerity, but the arguments he makes are, I believe, misleading approaching disingenuous. Let's try for some factual context.
would a Polymet mine improve this water?
would a Polymet mine improve this water?
Photo by J. Harrington

That suggests to me that Minnesota's role in copper production is nonexistent and would be far from essential. In fact, to go further, Minnesota could be well served by deferring development of our mineral resources until such time as the entire mining sector becomes more socially and environmentally responsible, if it ever does, and the value of our copper reserves has increased due to the scarcity of alternative sources of that commodity. The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) has drafted, and will soon launch, "an independently verifiable responsible mining assurance system, offering mines an opportunity to apply for recognition of achievement in environmental and social responsibility." Congressman Nolan makes no reference to such standards in his proposed legislation, at least in the version I last saw on line.

The fact that the proposed sulfide ore project has been through years of environmental review is of little relevance to the land exchange. The initial version of the review was deemed inadequate by the federal reviewing agency. That essentially doubled the preparation and review time normally expected.

My biggest concern with Representative Nolan's opinions is what they absolutely leave out. At no point does he acknowledge the court cases that have been filed to get the taxpayers (that's us in case you forgot) a fair deal on any land swap. The court case "argues that the Forest Service instructed its appraiser to ignore the proposed use of 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest land for PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel mine when calculating its value. Failing to account for the fact that this public land is being acquired for PolyMet’s mining proposal resulted in a bargain basement valuation of just $550 per acre. An independent analysis of real estate transactions found that PolyMet recently paid a private landowner a 70 percent higher price per acre for similar nearby land. The $550 price is also well below what other Minnesota mining companies have recently paid for surface land."

The land exchange would be unnecessary without the PolyMet proposal and is not a wonderful deal for the public if it substantially undervalues the resources that run with the land. The land swap legislation mixes apple and oranges and throws in a kumquat to deliver a strange fruit salad to the public, but a "wonderful deal" to a mining company whose major investor is a foreign corporation.

                     The Theft Outright

after Frost

We were the land's before we were.

Or the land was ours before you were a land.
Or this land was our land, it was not your land.

We were the land before we were people,
loamy roamers rising, so the stories go,
or formed of clay, spit into with breath reeking soul—

What's America, but the legend of Rock 'n' Roll?

Red rocks, blood clots bearing boys, blood sands
swimming being from women's hands, we originate,
originally, spontaneous as hemorrhage.

Un-possessing of what we still are possessed by,
possessed by what we now no more possess.

We were the land before we were people,
dreamy sunbeams where sun don't shine, so the stories go,
or pulled up a hole, clawing past ants and roots—

Dineh in documentaries scoff DNA evidence off.
They landed late, but canyons spoke them home.
Nomadic Turkish horse tribes they don't know.

What's America, but the legend of Stop 'n' Go?

Could be cousins, left on the land bridge,
contrary to popular belief, that was a two-way toll.
In any case we'd claim them, give them some place to stay.

Such as we were we gave most things outright
(the deed of the theft was many deeds and leases and claim stakes
and tenure disputes and moved plat markers stolen still today . . .)

We were the land before we were a people,
earthdivers, her darling mudpuppies, so the stories go,
or emerging, fully forming from flesh of earth—

The land, not the least vaguely, realizing in all four directions,
still storied, art-filled, fully enhanced.
Such as she is, such as she wills us to become.

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