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Coalition Proposes $1Billion Area Investment in Lieu of PolyMet

DULUTH, MN / March 27, 2018 / 1:58PM / PR Newswire — In a major new development, a coalition of candidates, elected officials, and labor organizations in Northern Minnesota has announced a proposal for a $1 billion investment in solar and wind manufacturing, broadband, mined copper recovery, and passenger rail, in lieu of what has come to be recognized as a beleaguered, divisive, and dangerous proposal from international copper mining company, PolyMet Inc.

“It’s time we came together with a way forward that works for the whole area,” said one coalition member. “This is exactly what’s needed. We’re working on the right mix of proposals as we speak.”

“$1 billion? That’s what the Vikings stadium cost, that’s the current PolyMet ‘financial assurances’ number,” said another. “If that’s what it takes to fix this mess, that’s absolutely something we can do. Anyway this is a far better option cost-wise than anything currently on the table.”

“It’s time to move forward with good, safe, long-term opportunities in Northern Minnesota. We’re doing this.”

Tony Hayward, of BP Deepwater Horizon infamy and Board Chair of PolyMet’s major investor Glencore, could not be reached for comment.

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Mount Polley and PolyMet: What happened in Canada must not happen here

By JT Haines, Bridget Holcomb and Libby Bent | 02/26/18

Final permit decisions on PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet Mining Project are approaching, and for all the celebration of the process by politicians and company promoters here in Minnesota, we have grave concerns. We bring this message from Duluth, where we live downstream of the proposed PolyMet mine.

Last week we welcomed a delegation from Amnesty International to discuss their experience with a British Columbia copper sulfide mine upstream of their own communities. This is a group that has heard it all before: promises of safety from mining companies, claims of new technology that isn’t, guarantees of zero discharge, and assurances from government officials that it will all be fine.

Unfortunately, in 2014, the dam upstream of them collapsed, sending toxic water and tailings into nearby Quesnel Lake, effectively turning the pristine lake into a waste pit. The Mount Polley dam breach is the worst environmental disaster in Canadian history, and it is ongoing.

Local people who drank straight from the lake now drink bottled water out of fear of cancer, miscarriages, and neurological disorders. Indigenous communities are currently sitting out their fourth consecutive salmon season, a resource as important to them as wild rice is here. These downstream communities have seen no justice.

Troubling similarities

JT Haines

While this is a Canadian story, we are shaken by the similarities. The companies promised safety, but at every turn have promoted their bottom line over best practices and best technology. Government officials repeated assurances of a rigorous environmental process, but have granted continuous exceptions and variances to the company. Unbelievably, downstream communities, including indigenous communities, were not consulted on emergency response planning.

The Amnesty delegation urges us to avoid blind faith in regulatory regimes that are conflicted in mission, limited in scope, lax in enforcement, subject to regulatory capture, and which have yet to protect surrounding waters from this particularly toxic industry. British Columbians believed in their process, and that trust was shattered.

Bridget Holcomb

Here in Minnesota, PolyMet has said that the comparison between its proposal and Mount Polley is unfair, citing that the slope on its proposed tailings dam would be less steep. The Mount Polley dam failure, however, was not attributed to the steepness of the slope, but to an unstable foundation. If permitted, the PolyMet dam would be built on unstable taconite tailings on top of a wetland, at a height of nearly twice that of Mount Polley, with an upstream wet tailings design. DNR’s own consultants have pointed out the similarities. PolyMet officials either did not read the Mount Polley Independent Expert Investigation and Review Report, or they are trying to deceive Minnesotans.

Libby Bent

You might ask, where are our elected officials? Despite the clear importance to her city, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson has so far declined to publicly assert our stake in this matter. (Notably, neighboring Carlton City passed a resolution last week expressing its stake and requesting a moratorium on sulfide mining in Minnesota until a 20-year record of safety is shown.) Gov. Mark Dayton has made baffling statements that oppose sulfide mining as too dangerous for the Boundary Waters but are generally supportive of it where Duluth and Lake Superior would be at risk. Our own Rep. Rick Nolan has promoted legislation that would force a land swap to allow mining on federal lands, limit environmental review of copper sulfide mine proposals, and stop scientific study of the cumulative effects of copper sulfide mining in northern Minnesota.

For their part, the Minnesota Legislature and DNR seem unclear between them whose job it is to actually decide if this is a good or bad idea for Minnesota. Sadly, our own confidence in our elected officials and government is in jeopardy.

Driving a wedge between us

We appreciate that the boom and bust cycles on the Iron Range make the promise of new mining jobs attractive. PolyMet is capitalizing on this and dividing all of us who live in northern Minnesota by playing to emotions of trust and heritage. It is painful to see a foreign corporation drive a wedge between us, despite our shared values, and obscure the facts on which this decision should be based.

This is what PolyMet does not want us to know:

The record of sulfide mining is abysmal. Worldwide, the industry has failed and failed again to store its waste, and has left a legacy of rivers devoid of life from mining waste settling into riverbeds, ensuring that toxic heavy metals will continue to prevent life for centuries. While we may want to believe we have stronger oversight and regulations, performance in the US is horrid. According to the U.S. Forest Service 2016 study, 100 percent of sulfide mines have had spills, and 28 percent have, like Mount Polley, had outright dam failures. A 2017 U.N. report shows that catastrophic spills are actually increasing, as mining companies seek to lower costs and increase profits.

Glencore, PolyMet’s main investor, has a history of broken promises and abuse of union workers and communities across the globe. Worldwide this industry is replacing workers with robots. This is not how we continue Minnesota’s proud union tradition.

At the recent public hearing in Duluth, several PolyMet supporters borrowed a well-worn talking point and tried to shame opponents for using copper in cellphones and cars. Rarely included with such statements is the fact that we Americans throw away more copper every year than the proposed PolyMet mine would produce. To those who are truly concerned about how much copper is being used by consumers: Copper is infinitely recyclable and in abundant supply, and recycling creates jobs and reduces carbon emissions.

Our truly precious resource

The truly precious resource we have in northern Minnesota is our freshwater complex, which includes the headwaters of Lake Superior and 10 percent of the world’s supply of fresh surface water.

It is too late for Mount Polley, and we stand in solidarity with our Canadian friends as they fight for reparations for the unmeasurable harm caused to them.

It is not too late for us. It is not too late to protect northern Minnesota from a catastrophic, irreversible decision that does not have the consent of downstream communities.

The DNR is now accepting comments on the draft permit to mine for PolyMet. Please comment before March 6, and tell the DNR, elected officials, and candidates around the state that this proposal is simply too risky for Minnesota and for Lake Superior.

PolyMet has divided us for too long. It is time for Minnesota to act, and to identify a better option. We stand ready to support leadership that would unify us around true economic development that celebrates our history without risking our future.

JT Haines, Bridget Holcomb, and Libby Bent are residents of Duluth and members of the group Duluth for Clean Water, which welcomed a delegation from Amnesty International to Duluth on Feb. 12 and 13.

This piece also appeared in MinnPost on February 23, 2018.

It’s the Economy, Stupid: Some brief, and (you’d think) obvious, reflections on Election2016

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Silly Bernie Bros! This is all your fault! Photo (c) NYT

By JT Haines — December 1, 2016

 

I’ve been a little quiet since election night, mostly because I’m angry about the result, and haven’t wanted to dump that on people during a difficult time. I’m angry, I’m intensely concerned (obviously), and, like many of us who have been paying attention, I’m not shocked. (I warned of this prospect back in 2013. Michael Moore was dead on in July of this year. Warnings like these were many, and not heeded.)

With some time having passed, I’ll say this now: Arrogant establishment Dems who got all this wrong, at our incredible expense, need to take responsibility, and, frankly, get the hell out of the way. At the very least, we must take anything they have to say right now with a mountain of salt.

Fortunately, there are some useful narrative corrections available to us, which I believe will help us get on a better path. This first hand account from three Sanders delegates is, to my mind, basically correct. Excerpt:

Against this virulent anti-establishment backdrop, the Democratic Party chose to run the most disliked establishment candidate in modern history against Trump, who criticized some of the same institutions voters disdain.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) deluded the party’s faithful into believing that this was “her time” to break the glass ceiling and that because Trump’s rhetoric was so divisive, violent and traumatizing, Clinton could simply leap over the significant hurdles of gender, her own personal image and all of the baggage that accompanies her and her husband.

We met working class voters while campaigning for Sanders. Many of us were these voters. A lot of Republican and Independent voters told us they would vote for Sanders if he were in the general election, but they would not vote for another Clinton.

The whole piece is worth a read. (Bernie on Democracy Now yesterday is excellent as well.)

The old new way isn’t working any more, if it ever did. We need to put all of that behind us, immediately, or continue down a destructive and divisive path which has mainly benefited the careerist establishment and urban elite. If there’s any silver lining here at all, it’s that there must be a reckoning. Here’s to hoping for the best. We have some serious, and scary, work ahead of us.

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Necessary, and Not Sufficient: Election Reflections 2016

 

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November 7, 2016

Well, we made it. And congratulations to us! Despite it all, we’ve succeeded in making this entire presidential election a referendum on “Not Trump” and “Yes, first woman president.”

Both absolutely necessary, to be sure, but sufficient? Time will tell.

Regarding the facts immediately in front of us, though, most “progressives” will indeed vote for Hillary Clinton, and they should. It’s too late for anything else. It wasn’t too late in 2013 when we published this suggestion here at Newspeak Review, but it is now.

So, for all the reasons well understood at this point, let’s go ahead and hope Hillary Clinton wins. (And, by the way, let’s also hope that Jill Stein magically garners the exact maximum number of votes possible without swinging the election. Such deadening gyrations would not be necessary if we didn’t have both corporate parties quietly enforcing a voting system that does not record people’s true preferences, but that’s a subject for another post.)

Just as importantly, though, let’s also move forward with eyes wide open. Because here’s the thing:

Each little surrender like this — each time we kick the can down the road, each time we cajole and abuse each other into carrying water for the political establishment in the name of the latest immediate term imperative — has longer term consequences.

It makes the next Standing Rock more inevitable. It makes the next Syria more likely. It makes taking to the streets more necessary. As we continue our slow 40 year march of one step forward, three steps back, it makes people putting their bodies on the line to protect and defend what is left of our rights and our security and our planet yet more difficult and more certain.

I do not think this is a path that most of us favor, but it is the one we’re on.

Genuine departure from that path will involve significant risk. In this campaign cycle, for example, at no point has Hillary Clinton not been the most likely president elect. That of course feels compelling, and determinative. But such likelihoods did not and do not relieve us of the responsibility to consider issuing a different demand, despite the odds. At some point we will need to take that risk. (Of course many feel we’re already long past that point.) And, as importantly, we must openly express willingness to take that risk so others can see us doing so. We’re closer than we’ve been in decades.

In any case, it’s election day tomorrow, and here we are. We still have the right to vote in this country, and we still have some confidence that our vote will be properly counted. These are things to behold. So do your thing.

And to those of you well-meaning souls who have expended substantial energy supporting a candidate who has already shown herself almost certain to oppose the genuine change that we need, here’s to #Nov9 and on. You know what you have to do.

Happy voting tomorrow, friends.

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