minnesota

Twin Ports Banker Weighs in on USFS Lease Renewal Question

By JT Haines — July 31, 2016

Brian Waldoch is a banker in the Twin Ports area of Minnesota and Wisconsin. He recently attended the US Forest Service listening session in Duluth on July 13, on the question of whether or not the USFS should renew federal mineral leases currently held by Twin Metals. (Twin Metals Minnesota LLC is a wholly owned operating subsidiary of the Chilean company Antofagasta PLC, “one of the top 10 copper producers in the world.” The leases concern land in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota, and would be required for a proposed copper/sulfide mining project to move forward.)

After the session, Waldoch submitted his own comment to the USFS, published here with permission, edited for length.

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The famous economist Adam Smith said that we are all motivated by self interest.

I attended the public comment session held at the DECC in Duluth earlier this month and the arguments I heard boiled down to: 1.) The BWCA is a special place and we should do everything we can to protect it, and the region’s drinking water is at risk. 2.) The Range is struggling economically and we should support the people, families and their way of life. Both have merit, both are important. We could debate which one is more important until we are blue in the face but that isn’t what this is about.

This is about the likelihood of outcomes. On one end, there is the possibility that the mine returns economic stability to the Range for generations and the technologies used to develop the mine do not pollute the BWCA or Lake Superior. On the other, the mine brings jobs for one generation and does irreparable damage do the BWCA, ruining the ecosystem and polluting Lake Superior to the point that it is undrinkable. The likely outcome lies somewhere in between.

“The self interest is the same as for all companies: Profit.”

If you, like Adam Smith, believe that people and corporations are motivated by self interest, it is clear that it is more likely than not that the BWCA will end up damaged and Lake Superior polluted. We are very familiar with the interests of the people who live here. But what of the company?

At the session, I did not hear anyone representing Twin Metals that would speak about the self interest of the company. This is concerning to me because they have the most to gain from this proposal and completely control the outcome. I think it is safe to assume what their self interest is, it is the same as for all companies: Profit. Quick, painless profit. The flashiest presentation we’ve ever seen won’t change this basic reality.

What does this mean for us and the likelihood of outcomes?  What it means is that the company’s interest is to build a mine and strip it of all of its resources as fast as possible, and as cheaply as possible. That’s how their shareholders reward them. That is how they determine how successful the mine is. Sure they will boast that they did it environmentally “safe,” but really what they mean to say is “we complied with the law.” But the law doesn’t have billions of dollars studying the outcomes and does not know the true environmental impacts until it is too late.

“If there is a corner to be cut in the name of profit that sacrifices the environment, rest assured, it will be cut.”

What is perhaps the most alarming to me about this whole situation is that the Twin Metals’ self-interest is directly opposed to the miner’s self interest. The miners believe that this mine will bring economic stability for generations, when really the mine is motivated to keep it open for a short as possible. This just kicks the can down the road so that our children can have this debate 20 years from now. Twin Metals’ self interest is to pay as little as possible for a short as possible. The mine will only keep the BWCA and Lake Superior as clean and quiet as it legally has to. If there is a corner to be cut in the name of profit that sacrifices the environment, rest assured, it will be cut.

“We carry all the risk and little reward.”

All this boils down to this: if we approve this mine, we are placing our trust in a global corporation’s self interest to make the best decisions for our people and our environment. They have all reward and little risk. We carry all the risk and little reward.

All we need to do to validate Adam Smith’s assumptions is to look around the world in countries where there are fewer environmental laws — it is obvious, the mine companies’ self interest is alive and well and environmentally friendly and economically stable mines are not.

We only have one opportunity to not mess this up. Please make the right decision and do not renew the mineral leases.

Thank you,

Brian Waldoch

Brian Waldoch lives in Duluth with his spouse and works in Superior. He is an avid hunter, fisher, and camper, and a lifelong resident of the state. Reader note: Brian and I are friends; he attended the listening session at my invitation. The comment and decision to submit are his.
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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.

 

 

 

 

Tourney15 in the Books; BenchPolyMet 2016?

Last night of outdoor puck on the Range, 2015.  Photo credit JT Haines

Franklin Rink in Eveleth. Last night of outdoor puck, 2015. Photo credit JT Haines

By JT Haines — March 8, 2015

Another Minnesota State Boys’ HS Hockey tournament is in the books, and as usual, it was a doozy. Congrats to repeat Class A Champs East Grand Forks, and to first-time Class AA Champs and undefeated Lakeville North. What an amazing run! As always, I really enjoyed watching, and as it turns out, doing so from garages and hotel rooms in between Iron Range pond hockey photo shoots ain’t a half bad way to take in the world’s greatest sporting event.*

PolyMet VP of Corporate Communications Bruce Richardson being "interviewed" by Tom Hauser between periods.

PolyMet VP of Corporate Communications Bruce Richardson being “interviewed” by Tom Hauser between periods.

A quick thanks to all who followed Newspeak Review and the #BenchPolyMet hashtag during this year’s tournament. PolyMet’s ads were just as gross and prevalent as ever — with an extra bonus this year of an “interview” by Tom Hauser of PolyMet VP Bruce Richardson in between periods of Friday’s Edina vs Duluth East thriller. Money talks, eh?

Some pretty cynical stuff, if you ask me, but the counter-narrative is alive. I appreciate all those who found their own way to say “NO” to PolyMet’s exploitative deluge during this year’s otherwise fantastic tournament. Let’s hope suffering through something similar next year becomes unnecessary for all the right reasons.

Last word goes out to John Doberstein of Duluth, with perhaps my favorite social media share of the weekend:

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Indeed.

* For those with any doubt about the greatness of this tournament, check out this year’s “All Hockey Hair team”:

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PolyMet’s Hockey Tournament TV Ad

By JT Haines, March 4, 2015

Admittedly PolyMet is getting a lot of free airtime from Newspeak Review today, but for your easy reference (by way of KSTC45 and a camera phone), here is PolyMet’s TV ad which is playing during the Minnesota State High School Hockey tournament:

Transcript:

What does it take to play on a tournament team?
The same kind of commitment it takes to open Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine,
And protect what we all treasure: our woods water and wildlife.
Congratulations to all the tournament teams, from PolyMet Mining.

PolyMet’s motivation with this type of messaging during the state tournament is exceedingly clear, and objectionable given that it is currently in the process of seeking controversial mining permits in Minnesota.

For comparison, here is miningtruth.org‘s summary of the PolyMet proposal, one of the numerous organizations in Minnesota raising important facts and questions about this company and this type of mining:

PolyMet Mining Corporation has proposed a sulfide mine called the “NorthMet Project” between Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota. This project proposes to develop an open-pit mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals.

PolyMet is a junior mining company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. The company has never operated a mine before, and is backed financially by the Swiss company Glencore. Glencore has a significant financial stake in the company, and has an exclusive agreement to sell the mine’s metals on the global commodities market.

While PolyMet doesn’t have a track record to consider, Glencore does. The company was founded by Marc Rich, the financier embroiled in scandal and pardoned by President Bill Clinton. The company has been implicated in environmental disasters, labor violations, and human rights abuses around the world.

The Chairman of the Glencore board of directors is former BP CEO Tony Hayward, the man who was in charge when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused the largest oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico. He was made infamous for saying how he would “like his life back” while the water was being polluted and whole communities were being devastated by the spill.

In December 2013, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) published the “Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement” for PolyMet’s proposed mine. This mine plan lays out exactly what PolyMet is proposing. The public submitted over 52,000 public comments on this document, 98% of which opposed the mine as proposed.

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It’s time to #BenchPolymet at the @MSHSL Hockey Tourneys

Tourney 2014 KSTC 45. Big day for this high schooler, getting interviewed on TV by Tom Hauser! Unbeknownst to him, he has a non-paying endorsement deal with a corporate mining company.

Big day for this high schooler, getting interviewed on TV by Tom Hauser! Unbeknownst to him, he has a non-paying endorsement deal with a corporate mining company. (Tourney 2014, KSTC 45)

By JT Haines — February 18, 2015

It’s that time of year. Every year since forever, hockey teams from across Minnesota participate in the greatest tournament of all time: The Minnesota state high school hockey tourney. The 2015 girls’ tourney starts today and runs through Feb 21. The boys’ tourney dates are March 4-7. You can watch the action in person at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul (tickets here) or on TV on KSTC45. I can’t wait.

Also happening right now in Minnesota is agency review of perhaps the most controversial permit application in the history of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. As readers of this site well know, a Canadian corporation called PolyMet (owned substantially by an even larger foreign corporation called Glencore) is in a multi-year permit application process seeking to conduct nonferrous (sulfide) mining in Northern Minnesota.

Trouble is, this would be a new type of mining in Minnesota, more dangerous than taconite/ferrous mining we are more used to. Briefly, instead of producing rust when exposed to air and water like iron ore, sulfide ores produce acid, creating all sorts of habitat risks like the leeching of heavy metals such as mercury into watersheds. Levels of attention to this issue during agency review may be unprecedented. Public comments last winter numbered 58,000, smashing the previous record by a factor of ten. This is a major public moment for Minnesota. (Here is DNR info. See gopolymet.com for the project’s corporate narrative, and miningtruth.org for responses.)

How does this relate to high school hockey, you ask? Well, frankly, that’s a helluva good question. I have the same question for PolyMet.

You see, for at least the past two boys’ tournaments (2013 and 2014), PolyMet has used our public tournament for its own propaganda, placing ads everywhere. Here are two more pictures from last year:

Scoreboard at the X, 2014 State HS Tourney

Scoreboard at the X, 2014 State HS Tourney

Boards at the X, 2014 State HS Tourney

Boards at the X, 2014 State HS Tourney

Wherever you stand on the underlying issue — misappropriating an unsuspecting high school kid’s big day, while the controversial public decision is pending, is simply unethical. Leave these kids alone, and let’m play.

As for the 2015 tourneys, I’m not aware of PolyMet’s plans (they don’t generally consult me), but this banner on http://www.prep45.com from today suggests we can expect more of the same:

PolyMet Banner Ad on KSTC Prep45 Tournament Info page from Feb 18, 2015

PolyMet Banner Ad on KSTC Prep45 Tournament Info page from Feb 18, 2015

So. When we see ads again at our public tournaments, whether the boys’ hockey tournament, girls’ hockey tournament, or other (I noticed them at football this year too), I say it’s time for a response. Let’s #BenchPolyMet.

I invite you to join in:

  • Tweeting and posting on social media using the hashtag #BenchPolyMet. Tag @MSHSL and @KSTC45 for maximum effect. Tag @newspeakreview for retweets.
  • Make a #BenchPolyMet sign. Display it at the tourney — (mega bonus points if you can get it on TV!)

Most of us who care about the integrity of our democracy and public decision making processes in Minnesota don’t have the big bucks that PolyMet does to spread our message, but we have our Minnesota voices. Let’s use ‘em. Attention to PolyMet’s corporate propaganda at the hockey tourneys is growing, and several organizations have already indicated interest in the #BenchPolyMet social media campaign. It’s time to #BenchPolyMet, @MSHSL @KSTC45.

FAQ:

What’s the big deal? I promise you the ad agents for PolyMet think it’s a big deal – why else are they there. The goal of their ads, of course, is to steadily place soft images of PolyMet as a friendly corporate citizen in our collective subconscious, hoping to weaken resolve and our focus on the danger they present to our environment and to their ultimate motive, which is profit. It’s insidious. Pretending to ignore it is not the right response.

Is #BenchPolymet political? Yes. You’re dern right it is – just as PolyMet’s ads are. PolyMet proponents and industry reps are constantly instructing the public to “let the process work” in response to the voicing of legit concerns. Yet, at this key moment of review, PolyMet exploits our tournaments for their ads, seeking to impact our political process. It’s not appropriate.

#BenchPolyMet @MSHSL @KSTC45