Sulfide mining’s jobs are temporary, but its pollution will stay in our waterways

By JT Haines, Lee Markell, Dylan Nau and Ijaz Osman | July 18, 2013
Re-Published in MinnPost, July 18, 2013

paddler
Photo by Jacob S. Pool

Like many Minnesotans, we’ve been camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) every summer for years, several of us for a quarter century or more. Some of us used to live in the Arrowhead, but all of us share a certain unspoken feeling heading north, when deciduous turns to boreal. We appreciate that our great state can still offer us a place where you can catch a fish, and drink the water – right out of the side of a canoe! (A lotta guys don’t favor the exclamation point. Or sarcasm. But it hasn’t escaped our attention that we can no longer do either of these things in the Twin Cities, which we think merits an exception.)

Without exaggeration, we feel that the Boundary Waters enhances our humanness. The question that challenges us today is: How many places like it do we need? How many are left?

In their excellent July 7 letter to the International Joint Commission regarding sulfide mines, the Minnesota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers express their opposition to proposed sulfide mine projects in Northern Minnesota, which would leach sulfuric acid into waterways, the lifeblood of Northern Minnesota’s economy, for up to 2,000 years. The group points out, correctly, that the jobs are temporary, the bulk of the profits will flow elsewhere, and the “toxic legacy of damaged waterways” will remain with us here, in Minnesota.

We thank the Hunters and Anglers for their letter, and couldn’t agree more. It passes our understanding that we would threaten this environment at all – let alone at the demand and benefit of foreign companies and mostly non-local investors. It seems to us that the value of existing jobs and clean land and water vastly outweigh the prospect of a few temporary jobs. Since when do we fancy ourselves a Banana Republic, accepting pennies on the dollar from outsiders and colonizers? Since when do we take their word for it?

We understand and celebrate the pride of the Arrowhead, and we respect the special right of Northern Minnesotans to speak first about this part of the state. But this place stays with us also, even when we are 200 miles away. We hope these words are received as an act of solidarity.

We have reached a crossroads. We’ve always needed jobs. We’ve always needed to eat, and drink. But we question the wisdom of carrying on as we are. “They” want pipelines, and sulfide mines, and frac sand mines, in our state. They will promise a few temporary jobs, maybe a tiny share of the profits, but they cannot promise that our Minnesota — our food, communities, schools, and water — won’t change forever.

We respectfully stand with those saying no. And importantly, we believe this stance should include doing right by those communities in need of economic development. There has to be a better way for Minnesota.

JT Haines of St. Paul (Newspeak Review editor); Lee Markell, Eagan; Dylan Nau, New Brighton; and Ijaz Osman, Elk River, submitted this commentary on behalf of the Bound Hounds group, which also includes signers Lindsay Dean, St. Paul; Tommy Haines, Iowa City; Thom Haines, Eden Prairie; Joe Krekeler, Minneapolis; Emily Little, Hopkins; Brent Livingood, Hopkins; Nate Markell, Minneapolis; Jodi Monson, Minneapolis, Jacob Pool, Minneapolis, Aaron Stoehr, Minneapolis, and Erin Todd, Rochester.

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