The Timberjay newspaper’s columnist Nancy Jo Tubbs has published a thoughtful article calling for Twin Metals, PolyMet and other companies proposing new sulfide mines in northern Minnesota to prove that they can operate without polluting.
Wisconsin is the poster-child for study and caution with its “Prove it First” law, which requires companies to pass a test before the state permits them to mine new sulfide ore bodies. They need to show an example of a place where a hard-rock sulfide mine in the U.S. or Canada has been able to prevent pollution during and after mining. The law has made permitting such a mine there “an impossibility” according to North American Mining.
The 1998 law came about after a passionate sport-fisherman, Indian and environmental alliance worked to defeat a proposed metallic sulfide mine that was backed by the U.S and foreign mining interests of Exxon, Rio Algom of Canada and the Australian company, BHP Billiton.
This year more than a million acres of federal land around the Grand Canyon were protected from mining pollution when a 20-year moratorium on new hard rock mines went into effect there. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the National Geographic Society that more than four million visitors to the scenic area every year bring in $3.5 billion in revenue, and that 25 million people in four states rely on the Colorado River watershed for irrigation and drinking water. Tourism jobs and the value of outdoor recreation are worth more than mining revenue and economic development in the area, Salazar said.
Other states and scenic and tourism areas are protecting their land from the dire consequences of hard-rock mining, so why should Minnesota consider taking on such a risk?
Tubbs is the owner of Camp Van Vac, a rustic resort on Burntside Lake.