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Ely – So just what town are we going to be?

The Last Wall of Zenith Sibly Savoy Mine's Dynamite ShackThis photo is of the Last Wall of Zenith Sibly Savoy Mine’s Dynamite Shack. It reportedly had 2 foot thick walls and a 10″ thick solid oak door that would have hung in the opening in this wall. The mines shared this shack for safe storage of that vital component of their work. This is all that’s left. So just what town are we going to be?

The other day four young entrepreneurs from International Fall were arrested for busting into a hotel down in Eveleth. They broke into the place, because they were there to steal as much copper as possible. Right now the price of copper is so high that people are breaking into places in order to help fill the demand for copper, by stealing as much of it as they can. The price of copper is also fueling the demand of pro mining people to allow them to by-pass current environmental laws so that they can get down to business and take advantage of the current market.

A few years ago, the pro mining people told this blogger that the best reason to mine non ferrous minerals in Minnesota is that we have the highest standards in the world, and if the mining is done here, rather than in Africa: It will be better for the world, because then we know it will be done right. Last year one of the companies interested in developing the second largest deposit of copper and nickel in the world, the biggest is in Africa, submitted their EIS to the State of Minnesota, it was rejected as being inadequate. The company plan to mine in Minnesota just wasn’t up to our standards. The state people told the mining company to come back with a better plan.

But what if there isn’t a better plan to mine non ferrous minerals in Northeastern Minnesota? What if the EIS was the best the mining people could come up with, and that there really is no safe and good way to develop this vast reserve of potential mineral wealth without forever damaging the quality of the area’s valuable amount of federal water? That just might be the reason Tommy Rukavina and David Dill came out in favor of raising the amount of sulfides we allow to be dumped into our water system. Currently the issue is about the concerns some people have over how much pollution our wild rice crop can take before we kill it. I don’t know if anyone really knows what that limit of tolerance is, and I don’t think many pro mining people even care. Fortunately for the canoe country, there are many people all over the nation and the world who do care about things like water, fish, loons, and wild rice.

The only possible hope I see that the two camps might be able to come together on is the possibility that the mining companies would agree to install and operate a sludge treatment plant at each of the mines granted permits to operate in Minnesota. The issue is really one of what will be done with all the pulverized waste rock that in most cases will be over ninety percent waste and less than ten percent product. I would like to see some of the pro mining people join me in calling on the mining companies to admit that unless they remove the caustic chemicals from their waste sludge that there isn’t any good way to mine here, and that if we do open Pandora’s Box we are sure to leave the lasting effects of ruining our water, and forever altering life here as we know it.

This issue is all about dollars and cents. The mining companies want our copper for the same reason those four young men broke into the hotel down in Eveleth; they were looking for a profit for their efforts. The price of copper is very high, and these are desperate times. There is no doubt that we have the technology to remove the bad things from the sludge we will have to put somewhere if we allow mining here. My doubts are whether or not the price of copper will ever be high enough to justify the costs of installing and then operating sludge treatment plants. Sooner or later the sludge is going to drain into our water, just like it is already doing in the St. Louis River. There is just no way to prevent that. In time even the best built dikes are going to leak, and if we allow things like sulfur to be left in that sludge we are going to see acid drainage polluting the Boundary Waters. It is only a matter of time. So what kind of town are we? Are we going to take the pieces of silver now, and leave the mess to the future, or are we going to hold to our high standards which now say that if mining can’t be done right, then it shouldn’t be done at all.

Picture and Post by Mike Hillman

1 comment to Ely – So just what town are we going to be?

  • Deborah Gibbons

    Mining for Precious Minerals is called “Desperation Mining”

    One tree’s value could be $4,000. The money is called an “Allowance” in our US legislature bills. An “Allowance” of nature and documented in law has a monetary value attached to it. When Nature gives to us, it then becomes our responsibility to replace any part of nature with true and equal value.

    Curious why the trees were logged throughout thousands of acres throughout Northern Minnesota. Seems these trees did not carry that requirement for “replanting”. That is not only illegal, but created LOSS in jobs. Seems initial requirements were bypassed as if planting trees on the land has already been decided by a few corporatists. Maybe those who broke that law need to be jailed. Maybe we need more jobs and plan to replant the thousands of acres already prepared for the destruction of mining and create needed jobs for the many unemployed living on the Iron Range. Maybe we want to put up some wind turbines and maybe we want to add many Solar Powered Water wells to help recreate the Boreal forest as it was before excessive logging practices, today. Now we find out, the corporatists are preparing for extremely destructive mining throughout the Arrowhead of Minnesota. The US Superior National Forest is not For Sale. It has already been stole once in the 1854 Treaty. The trees in the forest, all the water, all the fish, all the animals and all the precious minerals belong to the people. They were traded for peace. We do not want a new war in Minnesota. We want to keep our Peace.

    One acre of land never to be returned to nature has true value of $20,000, every year. One pound of wild rice is valued today at $17, loss of thousands of pounds of wild rice on a one mile stretch of water EVERY YEAR equals $4,000 lbs x $17 = $68,000 per mile of destroyed habitat, every year.

    One Drop of water has value so great and at least as great as one human life. The cost of one life cannot be calculated. The cost of thousands of lives throughout generations depend on all of the water, especially from Lake Superior, our cleanest, freshest, most pristine Great Lake. Poisoning that water will be called eco-genocide in our history books . . .

    The cost of mining is truly an act of DESPERATION, planning to destroy 99% of the water and land to gain 1% precious metals is clearly an insane act of eco-genocide and a mark on the souls of those who support it. This is not one small mine as many think, it is hundreds of mines throughout the thousands of acres in the Arrowhead.

    In the North, the loons speak for us. “Renew all metals by using what has already been taken.” Recycle all precious minerals (already taken or stolen from the earth and buy it back from the few. Return it to good use for today’s needs, but do not destroy our loons, our food, our fish and our water. Keep the land we walk on pure. Hold the CEOs responsible for their next act, their next choice:

    Will the next mining decision be in desperation? To Destroy our Earth or To Save our Earth?

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