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Our View on the Duluth News Tribune Editorial Dec. 20, 2009

My View of Our View by the Duluth New Tribune which they first “aired” March 1st and then ran again Dec. 20, 2009

Even for Editorial Comments this “Puff Piece for the Mining Industry” was beyond reason.  Why are they trying to Puff and Sell Copper Nickel mining to their readership?  What do they gain?  Are there Stock Options or mining ownership hidden here for the owners, who by the way live in North Dakota?

Let’s put the article into a little more open perspective.  I’ll offer snipets of their comments with my opinion in parentheses.

PolyMet acquired a massive, long idled processing plant (for less than the scrap value of that asset according to the Northern Miner.)  PolyMet has spent more than $20 million of investor’s money.  (Where did all that money go?  Are you an investor, do you know how your money was spent?  Person’s I’ve talked to believe about $2 million in expenditures in the state of Minnesota can be accounted for.  Where’s the rest, where’s the accounting.  They obviously have a LOT of money to spend any way they want.  How much would it take to buy YOUR vote?  Minnesota Taxpayers owned the tailings pond until given away by IRRRB and PolyMet values that tailings pond at $50 million, Minnesota taxpayers got nothing.)

Public comments are being accepted in writing. Minnesota’s U.S. Senators and Representatives along with “others in HIGH places” have voiced their STRONG support for PolyMet and copper mining. (And therefore KWITCHURBELIAKIN it’s a done deal and public comments will not be allowed at public meetings such as the recent PolyMet pep rallies in Blaine and Aurora, MN.)

Iron ore has been mined form our region since the 19th century. (So what? This has absolutely nothing to do with copper mining here and now.  There are a large number of people who don’t know that there is a VERY significant difference between the two types of mining.    To say that PolyMet is a different kind of mining is such a gross understatement.   I suppose the mining companies don’t want you to start thinking about it or analyzing it.)

The deposits are RICH. And not just PolyMet, others are lined up for the riches if PolyMet is permitted.  (How rich?  So rich you common Minnesotans will be rich the article implies, jobs for everyone, thousands or hundreds of jobs, maybe, if everything goes right and we can get round these pesky individuals interested in clean water.  We’re also not sure how many of the better paying jobs will have to come from highly trained foreign mining experts, maybe only a few, maybe, if we’re lucky.  Then the gates are open for prosperity for someone, we’ll work out the details of who gets what and how much and at what cost later.  Let’s just look at the possibility of jobs and the RICHES for now. )

There will be little or no risk to the people of Minnesota because we have 37 pages of laws and regulations. (We can’t screw up; they can’t screw up.  We would not allow it.  Rule 6132 completely has us covered.  Go back to sleep and trust your government.  Minnesota  Rule 6132.1200 provides for financial assurances for reclamation activities and postclosure maintenance.  However “all terms and conditions  must be approved by the commissioner” or his designated representative.  This puts a lot of power in the hands of that person or persons.   How does that person balance the state dictate to “increase mining” with the protective clauses, which look good on paper but are entirely up to the commissioner or his delegate.  Oh, and by the way, if our laws and regulations are so great why is the old LTV tailings pond still leaking and polluting ground water? It’s fact folks, the Duluth News Tribune likes to add and edit articles that state it leaks to state that it allegedly leaks.  Nope, DNR and MPC employees will tell you, “It leaks” and they just don’t know how badly it leaks.  Yes folks the very same pit PolyMet will buy, if they pay for it, and is proposing to use as is, leaks badly.  One MPC representative said he doesn’t think it would be any worse, “ideally,” with PolyMet but “there just isn’t money to clean it up.”)

Frank Ongaro says…and Joseph Scipioni says…(The editorial staff really seems to like Frank Ongaro, executive director of Mining Minnesota and will repeat verbatim anything that he says. I didn’t know he was a Jedi Knight…he seems to be quite accomplished at the Jedi Mind Trick. “This is an exciting project etc, etc. and my personal favorite “No additional restrictions are necessary.” I shouldn’t fault you in accepting these since the Jedi Mind Trick is SO powerful.  They also seem to like Joseph Scipioni, PolyMet President and Chief Executive Officer.  He talked with them and his statements go unquestioned.  He also must be a Jedi master.)

Much of the concern (as it should) has centered on sulfuric acid which has run off at copper mining operations, including countries devoid of environmental laws and concerns.  (Oh yes you forgot to mention Wisconsin and the Flambeau River debacle which led to a moratorium in 1989 on copper mining in that state until mining companies could DEMONSTRATE successful and safe mining practices.  Isn’t it interesting that no mining companies have returned to Wisconsin to demonstrate such can be done?)  But, we in Minnesota believe (without proof) that we are better than those other polluting countries and Wisconsin and we –“will do it right.” (Trick)

“The sulfur content of the rock at the PolyMet site is 1 percent or lower.  It’s negligible.”(Trick)  (Shouldn’t even editors in an opinion piece offer these comments as alleged?   Because and in fact due to the low copper content also, the amount of sulfur in relationship to the amount of copper is as high or slightly higher than in the Wisconsin mines.  So we will end up with the same amount of sulfur to deal with and that IS NOT NEGLIGIBLE!)

An impressive (but not nearly as reassuring as you might think) group of agencies are attempting to “make this happen.” (However, as impressive as the group is, the group has no control over human behavior, mine captains behavior and the need for profit and the concomitant expediency of extraction with the necessity to cut corners where ever possible.  The mining companies will have as few workers as possible and will cut back jobs when technically feasible or economically necessary.  Hiring a few hundred workers is NOT their primary goal.)

PolyMet would bring back to life the former LTV taconite plant. The massive facility cost $350 million to build in the 50’s, is reportedly worth $2.7 billion in today’s dollars (and was “sold,”no money has changed hands yet, for $3.4 million and some stock which is less than the scrap value of the place.  So, in other words if PolyMet pays for the plant it will be a gift for stock from Cleveland Cliffs.  And what shame is there in not using it, the Duluth News Tribune thinks there is shame involved if we don’t.  And, it appears there is plenty of shame to go round, but not where they are trying to put the shame blame.  PolyMet brags to shareholders that the plant was worth $200 million and the LTV tailings pond worth $50 million.  This is a tailings pond that IRRRB gave to Cleveland Cliffs for FREE who then included it in the agreed upon 3.4 million “sale” which has yet to be consummated.  Seems to me there is plenty of shame to pass around with the skullduggery involved with this “ownership maneuvering” along with the U.S. Forest service swapping of protected lands for the express purpose of circumventing those same protections,  all for PolyMet, all for a few temporary jobs.

Two groups strongly opposed to copper mining are far removed from the Northland. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness group is based nowhere near the Boundary Waters, but in Minneapolis. And the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is based in St. Paul.  (No one I’ve met with whom I’ve talked, these groups included, are opposed to copper mining, a myth that for some reason the mining companies want to perpetuate.  These groups, like me, are opposed to pollution.  I am very surprised that an editorial group could not distinguish the difference.  And your inference than someone who is geographically a distance from the pollution doesn’t count, if valid, would disqualify you as your ownership, in North Dakota, is geographically further away.  Anyone who knows anything about newspapers knows that even editorial staffs don’t blink unless told to by the owners of the newspapers.  In this case an individual “far removed from the Northland.”)

Diversifying the economy of the iron ore-dependent Range (is an exceptional idea, one that has been overlooked for over 35 years.  So far the best idea we can come with is more mining, mining that is ever so much trickier than iron mining to control from the standpoint of environmental impacts.  What if we take a portion of the shameful money we are wasting trying to perpetuate mining and gather all these impressive agencies and individuals together for a new dictate, “diversify the economy of the iron-ore dependent Range and let’s do it in a way that creates truly long term sustainable businesses and jobs here and gives individuals meaningful, healthy, non-polluting jobs.  That could be done but it would take a different focus and commitment.   YES, let’s put people back to work!  And, let’s make sure the air and water are healthy for us and future generations.)

Yes the economy continues to struggle (and it has nothing to do with the protests of a few as implied by the juxtaposition of those two sentences in the Tribune editoral.  It struggles because of the politicians, especially because of the bureaucrats, in spite of proper regulation, and in spite of the best efforts of our citizens.  If we are going to do anything other than more of the same but worse scenario with mining, if we do want diversification and long term growth then we must look beyond extractive industries.  Nature, clean water and clean air are more valuable now and in the future than all the resource extraction you can imagine, finagle, coerce, or force upon a working population.)

(I would propose a moratorium on copper mining in Minnesota as the best long term plan.  The Wisconsin situation with recent test wells showing abnormally high concentrations of heavy metals should not be ignored.  If mining companies can prove to the standards requested by the intelligent and thoughtful people of Wisconsin, then we might also want to reconsider copper mining here.  Until then we must demand more of our politicians than the high risk, promises without adequate financial assurances, short term run copper mining presently offered to Minnesota.  And, if the foreign mining companies get their way and when they are done with us and we are left with the cost of cleanup and the pollution they will leave behind, we will be exactly where we were 25 years ago and still today, wishing we had diversified and done SOMETHING entirely different.)

1 comment to Our View on the Duluth News Tribune Editorial Dec. 20, 2009

  • RJ

    If the people of Wisconsin want to sit around in the dark and starve to death, let ’em. I would prefer to have a means of supporting myself and my family in the future. If we drive all business out of the state, we might as well go with them, because I don’t think millions of people are going to be able to live the hunter-gatherer lifestyle under the new Chinese-run world government. Learn to bow to your new masters, folks, they passed us up as the world’s largest exporter this week. They’ve conquered us economically, and we’re doing our very best to allow it.

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