Monday, January 29, 2018

Is copper-nickel mining in Minnesota responsible? Not so's we can tell!

Copper-nickel mine proposers would have us believe that Minnesota's requirements are world class. We've been posting about sustainable mining, or responsible mining, or green mining, for several years. We have, based on what we've read, major doubts about the "world classness" of what's being proposed to be issued permits to mine in Minnesota. Today, we're going to list key points from a definition of responsible mining, as found in the late Robert Goodland's Responsible Mining:The Key to Profitable Resource Development-Defining “Best Practice Responsible Mining."

would it be responsible to mine near here?
would it be responsible to mine near here?
Photo by J. Harrington

Goodland asserts that there are eight principles to responsible mining:
Principle 1: Social and Environmental Assessment
An objective, skilled assessment team is the starting point to determine the path toward responsible mining.

Principle 2: Transparency vs. Secrecy
No social and environmental assessment should be kept secret from potentially impacted stakeholders.

Principle 3: Acceptance by Stakeholders
If stakeholders don’t want the proposed project, it should not go ahead.

Principle 4: Food Production Trumps Questionable Mining
Mining must not decrease resources in areas of scarce land or water.

Principle 5: Compliance with International Standards
Responsible mining corporations will uphold all international social and environmental agreements.

Principle 6: Prequalification or certification of potential mining permit seekers
The best practice is for all mines to engage in a rigorous independent certification regime, as suggested in the IUCN World Conservation Congress’ Resolution 4.088.

Principle 7: Insurance and Performance Bonds
Insurance and performance bonds, mechanisms to foster compliance with contractual obligations and to improve the quality of results, should become standard in mining.

Principle 8: Royalties, Taxes and Fees
Responsible mining accurately assesses all relevant costs and benefits to ascertain whether the proposed mine will earn a significant net benefit.

We believe that, at best, Minnesota would rate about a gentle person's "C" on the preceding principles. Woodland then proceeds to consider that "Five types of socially or environmentally sensitive areas need special consideration in mining regulations." We are unaware of provisions in Minnesota's mining regulations that create what Goodland refers to as "No-Go Zones for Mining:" (something Minnesota probably needs)
  • Indigenous Peoples Reserves:

  • Conflict Zones:

  • Fragile Watersheds:

  • Biodiversity, Habitats, and Wildlands:

  • Cultural Property:

is it responsible to expand a tailings dam upstream of this state park?
is it responsible to expand a tailings dam upstream of this state park?
Photo by J. Harrington

We further believe Minnesota, and those who would undertake copper-nickel mining here, would be well served if each mining proposal were reviewed by third party auditors to determine just how responsible the proposed mining project may be. From what we've read so far, we doubt any would pass muster. Read Goodland's paper and the assertions by those proposing to undertake copper-nickel mining. Form your own opinion. We'd sleep much better at night if we were proven in error in our assessments of the status of "responsible mining" in Minnesota.

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