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PolyMet Review Not Like Poker

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By JT Haines – December 6, 2015

I clicked the link in the above tweet this morning and took a look at Mining Minnesota’s stock comment to Governor Dayton with industry’s reasons why the Final EIS is “beyond adequate.” (Full text of the comment is below.) My purpose here is to simply offer a quick response to the first two of these “reasons,” which have been persisting in the discussion for years despite a lack of any real value.

MM’s Reason #1: “The Co-lead Agencies have spent 10 years evaluating potential project effects and alternatives.”

Yes, it has taken a long time. Simply put – having spent 10 years on something isn’t a reason to keep doing it. Really, the fact that the project has required 10 years to evaluate is no more a reason to move forward with it than it is a reason not to move forward with it. This isn’t poker, we’re not pot committed.

MM’s Reason #2:  “The Final EIS responds in detail to thousands of public comments and questions submitted during the review periods for the Draft EIS and the Supplemental Draft EIS.”

This is, again, simply a reiteration of the stage of the process we’re in — not a substantive point for or against anything. Comments have been submitted (a record number against, actually), and comments have been responded to –that’s the point of the process. So, again,”Lots of time has already been spent on this” is not a reason to DO anything. (By the way, remind me never to take investment advice from Mining Minnesota: “JT, you’ve lost so much money on this stock, obviously you must invest more.”)

Repeat them ad nauseum if you will, but these “the process is lengthy” arguments remain logically empty — they don’t actually mean anything other than this thing has already cost us all a lot of time and money.

At some point, if it still looks like a turkey…

Finally, @GoPolyMet’s tweet mentions bringing “hundreds of #jobs to the area,” so I’ll conclude with this: Spending millions of dollars adding 350 jobs — jobs beholden to a gigantic, foreign, anti-union mining conglomerate (Glencore XStrata) and a volatile international metals market — while in the midst of our own extremely challenging time where we’re losing far more than 350 existing mining jobs, would not on its face appear to be a sensible jobs program, if that’s what this is supposed to be. We can do better.

For the full text of the Final EIS and fact sheets, or to comment, visit DNR.
For Mining Minnesota’s full suggested comment to the Governor, click here. The text is also below.
For Mining Truth’s full suggested comment to the Governor (and response to the remainder of Mining Minnesota’s comment), click here.

 

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TELL THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES YOU SUPPORT THE FINAL EIS FOR POLYMET

Final EIS for PolyMet’s NorthMet Mine is beyond adequate
The Final EIS for PolyMet’s proposed mine concludes a thorough and independent review of the project’s potential environmental effects. After 10 years of study, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Forest Service have looked at the evidence and correctly found that the NorthMet Mine can comply with strict state and federal environmental standards.
The Final EIS for the NorthMet Mine is far beyond “adequate.” It takes a careful and comprehensive look at the project from every angle.
– The Co-lead Agencies have spent 10 years evaluating potential project effects and alternatives.
– The Final EIS responds in detail to thousands of public comments and questions submitted during the review periods for the Draft EIS and the Supplemental Draft EIS.
– The project’s water modeling—which was fully updated for the Final EIS—shows that PolyMet’s treatment and mitigation plans will prevent acid mine drainage and meet all water quality standards.
– After careful review, the Final EIS concludes that groundwater flows from the NorthMet project will not directly, indirectly, or cumulatively affect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Voyageurs National Park, and that any possible groundwater flow would be prevented.
– The Final EIS also specifically considered the project’s potential effects on air quality and water quality with respect to human health, and identified no adverse health risks.
– In short, the Final EIS meets all of the requirements of the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The time has come to move forward. The DNR should affirm the adequacy of the Final EIS so it can serve as the foundation for the state of Minnesota’s permitting process.

 

 

 

 

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“Mining the Energy of the MN Boys’ State Hockey Tourney”: A Message from PolyMet

By JT Haines — March 4, 2015

As readers of this site know, I have taken issue with PolyMet’s advertising at the Minnesota State HS Hockey tournaments, and have been promoting the hashtag #BenchPolyMet for use on social media during the tournaments for further public discourse on the matter. Traffic on Newspeak Review has reached record levels each day I have posted about this. (For earlier posts, including a sharable #BenchPolyMet image, click here and here.)

Well, we need not speculate any further about PolyMet’s own thoughts about their ad campaign at the state tournament. Minutes ago, PolyMet delivered this message concerning its involvement — with the fairly remarkable title “Mining the Energy of the MN Boys’ State Hockey Tourney” — reprinted here in full (emphasis mine):

From: PolyMet Mining [mailto:info@polymetmining.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2015 11:42 AM
To: [Redacted]
Subject: Mining the Energy of MN Boys’ State Hockey Tourney

polymet

It’s tournament time!

Like many of you, we’re eager for Minnesota Boys’ State High School Hockey Tournament action this week.

We’re proud to be a major supporter of the Minnesota State High School League State Tournaments, allowing statewide live broadcasts and online streaming of tournament games. Follow those live streams here.

We’re also looking forward to the Environmental Impact Statement for the PolyMet Project being completed, with permitting to follow this year. We’d enjoy your support, too.

Follow us on social media. @GoPolyMet #PolyMet

At the games? Visit us at the PolyMet Mining booth on the concourse. We’ll have more information on the project and other materials on hand, and some giveaways too—all while we celebrate this season of hard work, long hours and possibly a few good puck bounces.

There you have it. PolyMet would like to mine your energy, would enjoy your support, and would like you to associate PolyMet and the upcoming EIS completion with our fair state hockey tournament. Public lobbying concerning their controversial mine proposal will be taking place right there in the concourse at the games for your convenience, to complement the friendly voice you will hear from time to time in the arena and on TV with messages about how much PolyMet cares about you and your community.

Responses to this propaganda campaign — particularly in light of the key moment we’re in for regulatory review — are certainly in order, whether directed to the league, the company, or elected officials, and I hope some take a little time to make sure their positions about this are heard. In the meantime, enjoy some great hockey this weekend folks, and remember to use the hashtag #BenchPolyMet.

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Observations from the House Hearing on Nonferrous Mining

House Committee on Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy, Feb 3, 2015

House Committee on Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy, Feb 3, 2015

By JT Haines — February 4, 2015

The new House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee of the MN legislature held an “informational hearing” yesterday on nonferrous mining, with presentations from Mining Minnesota, PolyMet, and Twin Metals, and then some limited public testimony. I was in attendance. Some brief observations:

1. Firstly, Aaron Brown was pretty much spot on with his advance prediction in MinnesotaBrown:

I expect something of a dog and pony show in the mining and outdoor recreation committee today. There could be valuable nuggets of information and intrigue, but one would have to invest a lot of time removing a significant amount of political overburden before processing the raw ore of knowledge.

Yeah, that’s right. Regarding those few nuggets of information and intrigue:

2. Rep. Tom Anzelc had the closest thing to a “wow” moment at the hearing when he went on a mini and somewhat oddly timed rant about the MiningTruth billboard on I35. Evidently he really doesn’t like the dern thing. Says it’s political. (Not mentioning, I’d add, the loads of industry advertisements across our state, including at the state h.s. hockey tournament, which are inherently political of course. More on that soon.) @FriendsBWCAW tweeted the following response: “We’re glad to hear that Rep. Anzelc has noticed our billboard on Hwy 35. He should check out the website.”

3. The points of view of various committee members are fairly well known and were on display as well. Range reps Melin and Metsa were cozy as ever, at one point enjoying a note passing with Anzelc during the Twin Metals presentation. Big smiles; the moment stood out. Chairman Hackbarth limited public testimony following the industry presentations to 34 minutes, explicitly excluding Q&A time which had been provided for the industry reps. The moment drew an audible reaction from the audience, who also didn’t fail to notice that much of those 34 minutes were then consumed by pro-industry testimony and chit chat from committee members. The first three testifiers were pro-industry. The hearing was adjourned at the scheduled time of 4:30.

4. Rep. Yarusso lobbed in a few questions (necessary minimum?) about industry testimony, including the oft-discussed question about water modeling, which question was ultimately punted to the regulators. Yarusso may be the lone voice on the committee willing to subject industry claims to any real scrutiny. Remains to be seen.

5. No major surprises in any of the above. That said, there is a development which took further shape yesterday meriting a mention. The Laurentian Divide — the north/south continental water divide which runs through N. MN —  appears to be increasing in political significance in a way that could have a meaningful impact on this issue. A good amount of the testimony yesterday was from the Ely area and focused on Twin Metals and/or the BWCA. The PolyMet operation, as I understand it, would primarily be in the Lake Superior watershed, i.e., south of the divide. We’ll see whether and to what degree “north of the divide” groups are willing to throw broader clean water interests under the bus. Folks are of course welcome to their own financial and strategic decisions, but I for one think a divide here is the wrong strategy for all those concerned about sulfide mining in Minnesota, and a long-term loser. Dividing and conquering isn’t exactly a new idea. And as we saw yesterday, opportunities for clean water advocates to testify publicly are at a premium. Public testimony which distances itself from the PolyMet part of the issue is not a zero sum proposition.

6. Regarding more broadly applicable testimony, Betsy Daub’s (Friends of the BWCA) was exceptional. She was the first to raise last summer’s Mt. Polley sulfide mine tailings dam disaster in Canada. And given the numerous claims from industry reps about safety, perhaps Mt. Polley should have been raised earlier. The committee, however and to its credit, did agree Mt. Polley requires further investigation.

To conclude, any “divide” which may develop along geographic lines is in my opinion the most important thing to watch coming out of yesterday’s hearing. Most of the other tunes in the room didn’t change a note. View the full hearing here.

[Thanks to Greg Seitz and the Wilderness News Blog for the mention in his “Top Tweets from the Hearing list, which you can find here.]

UPDATE: I received a call from Becky Rom at Sustainable Ely this afternoon in response to this piece. She assured me that, as far as she is concerned, no geographic divide is taking place and that yesterday’s hearing testimony was coordinated among advocacy groups to the greatest degree possible, including with Friends of the Boundary Waters. She added “we have to fight all sulfide mining” in Minnesota.

I also received the following note from Tony Yarusso, Rep. Yarusso’s son: “From the maps I’ve seen, the entirety of the (open pit) PolyMet proposal would be in the Lake Superior watershed, or at a minimum all of the storage and processing. For the (underground) Twin Metals proposal, mining would be in the Hudson Bay watershed, but materials would be transported to the PolyMet facility location for processing. The location of processing and underground vs. open pit is significant (and good) for the BWCA portion of the equation, but it’s not like water in the southern watershed doesn’t matter obviously. Most significantly, Lake Superior has a commercially important lake trout fishery that has only recently rebounded from overfishing and sea lamprey problems, and the St. Louis River (the sub-watershed the mine would be in) has just had its first evidence of sturgeon reproduction after many years of work restoring both habitat and water quality from past impacts there.”

Mining Minnesota OpEd Distracts from True Purpose

Mt. Polly Tailings Breach

Mt. Polley tailings breach, British Columbia, August 2014. Photo Credit Caribou Regional District.

By JT Haines — January, 7, 2015

The Mesabi Daily News published an OpEd by Mining Minnesota Executive Director Frank Ongaro on December 20, 2014, and I’d like to take a minute to offer some thoughts in response here on Newspeak Review.

In his OpEd, Mr. Ongaro claims to break down a false choice between “the environment” and “jobs.” I believe he misses the real choice — between elevating the interests of multinational corporations and that of Minnesotans.

First, let’s be clearer than Ongaro about something that should be well understood by now: multinational mining corporations like PolyMet and its chief investor Glencore are not here to support wind turbines, build boats and computers, employ Minnesotans, spare poor people in far off lands, or benefit labor organizations and communities. They are here for profit and to further enrich the wealthy. Suggesting otherwise is a distraction.

The real question is whether we as Minnesotans would be better off with the companies here or without them. Reasonable people obviously disagree about that, so it strikes me that that’s where our focus should be.

Glossy PR images featuring windmills and cell phones do not tell the whole story. From where I sit, I see a terrible record of destruction by the sulfide mining industry, including the recent Mt. Polley tailings disaster in Canada, not to mention anti-labor practices everywhere it operates. (For a statement from United Steelworkers last month on Glencore’s labor practices, check out usw-global-allies-rally-in-london-demand-end-to-glencore-labor-abuses.)

Ongaro references “recycling our scrap metal” but I’ve heard no announcements about shortages of key metals in Minnesota necessitating major ecological risk-taking, or discussions of more comprehensive recycling programs. I observe a lack of conversation – especially from industry PR shills – about whether Minnesotans and Rangers should be better compensated for public lands and resources which some propose compromising in service of the global market.

Perhaps most importantly, I observe increasing environmental and economic turmoil, and a conversation mostly bereft of serious consideration of proposals for local economic diversification that would better serve the Range and the state. Instead, old rhetoric is used to avoid this conversation.

Ongaro’s suggestion that those who use metals (live in society) are disqualified from asserting viewpoints about how we manage public resources is reductive and insulting. We don’t need more “we use metals for stuff” puff pieces. What does “copper is useful” really tell us? Minnesotans understand that we use metals. Commenting on the production, sale, use, and re-use of those resources is not environmental hypocrisy, it’s responsible citizenship.

We all love this place. We all want what’s best for our communities. Many of us believe now is the time to discuss whether business as usual is the way to get there, especially when dealing with companies built to profit by destroying our land and water precisely to the level we allow it.

When pro-Minnesota advocates talk about sustainability, we are not, as Ongaro argues, advocating for a “utopian” vision. We are advocating for the best and healthiest possible future for our communities. And we simply don’t believe that future includes PolyMet and Twin Metals as currently conceived.

The industry, its ultimate motivations clear, wants to convince us that there are no hard choices here – that we can have it all. That just isn’t true. Distraction from the mining industry’s true purpose does us a disservice.

Bogged Down in Duluth

By JT Haines – January 25, 2014

On January 16, I attended the 1300-person public hearing in Duluth on PolyMet Inc’s proposed nonferrous metal mine in northern Minnesota. The purpose of the public hearing (first of three) was to receive public comment on the proposal’s “NorthMet Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

I feel deeply about this moment, and have thoughts about it a mile long. Ian Kimmer of Friends of the Boundary Waters is calling this “the most critical conservation and economic decision of our generation,” and I agree. I’ve written on the subject several times and have co-directed a documentary about a similar project in Latin America, but I have to admit, when it came time to comment publicly in Duluth, I felt a little jammed up. Public speaking is just hard, so there’s that, but a few other things travelled through my mind that day.

We’re All Friends Here

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SDEIS Open House

First, walking into a room full of energized people wearing work boots, union tees, and “we support mining” stickers did – at least for me – have an impact. Frankly, I like these guys. I doubt many in the room know me from Adam, but I grew up a couple blocks from Minntac in Mt. Iron, and rooms like this remind me of a time and place not at all unpleasant. At the end of the day, we’re all friends here, and thankfully, pretty much everyone there seemed to have that firmly in mind.

But as I stood there feeling very strongly about the topic – me with my freshly minted “who will pay for pollution” sticker – the “we need jobs” thrust weighed heavily on my mind. Wait, how sure am I about all of this, again? I mean, I’m sure — to me, we absolutely need to identify better, more sustainable jobs than this new and dangerous type of mining — but all of a sudden I’m completely re-evaluating all three thousand thoughts I’ve had about this over the past couple of years. It’s not easy.

Kabuki Theater

Second, during the week leading up to the hearing, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr made a public effort to discourage people from comments not specifically about the SDEIS. “This is not a referendum on mining,” he said. The DNR’s printed materials and official media kits drove home the message. Fair enough, I guess.

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Duluth SDEIS Hearing

Except that, there I was again, re-evaluating the legitimacy of my own sentiments for this room. I have made some effort to review the SDEIS (it’s 2200 pages long), but I think my opposition ultimately comes from somewhere else. My observations have led me to the conclusion that allowing external corporate interests to extract public resources and ship them off to international markets does not generally work out well for communities. (Not really ever, nowhere, never.) What’s the plan here, one more boost? Then what? When does it stop? Why not now, rather than in 20 years when we come up against this again, but in a worse position? Why not now when our waters are reasonably clean, rather than later when they’re inevitably less so? And by the way, who really benefits?

And then…are these sentiments appropriately specific to the SDEIS?

To be fair, charged with evaluating this specific proposal, I imagine Commissioner Landwehr believes there’s a time and place for geopolitical economics, and that this hearing wasn’t it. Whether or not one agrees with that, it was at least enough to give me additional pause.

Conclusion

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Don Arnosti, Audubon MN

Thoroughly bogged down (or just a chicken with excuses, hard to say), I didn’t speak in Duluth. I’m glad to report, though, that a lot of others did, and with comments that were remarkably coherent and helpful. Many were specific to potential flaws in the SDEIS, the trigger for formal DNR review. (Just this week, in fact, the Ely Timberjay has reported that the DNR is considering whether the key water modeling in the report is flawed.) And others were respectfully from the heart, and absolutely effective in their own right. By the way, plenty of those were in the paper the next morning too.

So my hat’s off to Minnesotans commenting on this project. I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say on Tuesday.

The final of three public hearings is scheduled for this Tuesday, January 28, in Saint Paul. For my part, I hope to have decided by then whether “Glencore Schmencore” is specific enough to the SDEIS. (Glencore is the Swiss multinational Polymet investor, chaired by Tony Hayward of BP Deepwater Horizon infamy).