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Polymet lawsuit
Sunday, March 13 2011
 
Written by Circle NEws Staff,
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I wrote last August about the environmental dangers associated with sulfide mining, which is being proposed for several areas in northeastern Minnesota. Although further environmental analysis has been ordered for the PolyMet Mining project near Hoyt Lakes - within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory - the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), the State of Minnesota economic development agency located in Eveleth, has given PolyMet a $4 million loan.
In January, five conservation groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), filed a lawsuit challenging the IRRRB loan to help PolyMet develop its open-pit sulfide mine.
"The proposed sulfide mine, which would destroy hundreds of acres of high-quality wetlands, violate water-quality standards, and eliminate two square miles of critical habitat for lynx and wolves, is currently in the environmental review process along with the related land exchange," the conservation groups said in a statement.
The "land exchange" refers to PolyMet's commitment to purchase land for the U.S. Forest Service to compensate for land that the proposed mine would occupy in the Superior National Forest. PolyMet reportedly would use the $4 million loan from the IRRRB to purchase land.
In addition to IEN, the plaintiffs are the Center for Biological Diversity, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Save Lake Superior Association and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
"Minnesota law prohibits state agencies from providing any approvals, permits or loans for proposed projects that are still going through the environmental review process," said Marc Fink, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "As we warned Iron Range Resources ahead of time, this loan violates state law."
The Fond du Lac Band, one of the tribal signatories to the 1854 Treaty (along with the Bois Forte and Grand Portage Ojibwe bands), has expressed concern about the negative effects from copper-nickel mining. FDL is a federally-appointed "cooperating agency" for the environmental review of the PolyMet mine, and, as the Duluth News Tribune reported in late February, its efforts pointed out inadequacies in the original environmental review. The band is worried that water pollution from sulfide mining would destroy already dwindling wild rice beds, among other harmful effects.
"We didn't oppose PolyMet or mining," Ferdinand Martineau, secretary/ treasurer of the band, told the newspaper. "We opposed the way they wanted to do it."
Sulfide mining in the West has a horrific track record, as far as polluting ground and surface water. The Save Lake Superior Association has said that the PolyMet North Met project's "potential for water and air pollution is immense. Much of the advertised billions of tons of low-grade sulfur-bearing ore would be ground into a fine, talc-like powder using huge quantities of power generated by burning sulfur and mercury bearing coal and other carbon fuels. The ecology and environment of the so-called mining district would be devastated, not revitalized. There would be few greater sources of carbon emissions worldwide were this and the other low grade ore mines permitted."
The project is being pushed as a source of jobs amid the jobless economic recovery. Increasingly, the North American land mass, including northeastern Minnesota and ceded treaty lands, are being colonized by foreign corporations. Sulfide mining poses substantial dangers to our health and welfare, but it is still flying below the radar, so to speak. It is time for a more forceful popular movement to gather force and urge elected leaders to put the brakes on schemes to poison the North Woods for short-term economic gain.


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