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Prove it first! Make mining companies show that their technologies won’t pollute!

ely-mn-lake bwca without mining pollutionELY, Minn. — A pro-mining stance combined with a pro-environment stance, which everyone claims they desire, demands nothing less than a “prove it first” law in Minnesota. “Prove it first” is the obvious and only conclusion that permits mining and saves the clean air and water we all love and need.

For Minnesota politicians or residents to accept or promote anything less than “prove it first” with parameters similar to the Wisconsin law in regard to non-ferrous sulfide mining in Minnesota is to be one of the following (or perhaps all three):

MisinformedMany still don’t know the difference between iron mining and non-ferrous sulfide mining. Why do politicians rarely distinguish between the two entirely different processes? Many believe in the hype and promises of this non-ferrous mining industry with a significantly less-than-stellar reputation. They believe in the myth of “strong regulations” of the mining industry in Minnesota. Some co-opted politicians believe the existing wild rice protective limits for sulfates were “arbitrarily” chosen, when in fact the research establishing the existing limits was performed by one of our DNR’s best scientists, who had the absolute respect of his colleagues. That field research was done when our waters were less polluted than they are now; therefore it was more reliable than if done today in more polluted waters or in a laboratory.

Disingenuous: This includes those claiming to be for clean water but doing nothing to guarantee such. And, there is no guarantee in promises, inadequate financial assurances or unproven new technology.

Intellectually dishonest: Do we not have enough polluted water (and increasing at every count)?  Have we not coddled the mining industry sufficiently, to our own detriment? My research indicates that Minnesota is not protecting Minnesotans and our water, partly because of inadequate regulations but more often because of inadequate enforcement. Those of us who have been labeled hard-headed environmentalists by U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and state Rep. Tom Rukavina are at odds with the intellectually dishonest who are demanding faster tracking to disaster and land swaps that are blatantly unfair to Minnesotans. Why would we trade lands that are protected by the Weeks Act for unprotected lands? The claim that the BWCA land swap bill H.R. 5544 is for the poor children is intellectually dishonest. If it were so important, you would think these stalwart politicians would have demanded  to settle this land issue for the children years ago. But now that Polymet Mining and other mining interests want these lands, the children’s interests surface more prominently.

Iron Range politicians and mining companies dislike the analysis brought to the current situation by the researched and documented “resource curse.” In essence, if mining is so great and supposedly we are in record times for taconite production, why are Iron Range communities in such bad economic shape?  You would think communities would benefit along with the mining companies, but the research indicates that communities are worse off with mining than without.

An article from Mining Watch Canada shows how the mining industry is questioning the “resource curse.” The International Council on Minerals and Metals has determined the problem is with poor governance of host countries. First mining companies co-opt all levels of governance for minimum regulations, favoritism at all levels and the best terms and taxation, then they blame the host country for not striking a better deal, not managing revenues and not investing in social causes or benefit sharing, particularly at the local level (the ICMM’s words, not mine). So, mining companies are responsible for nothing except their profits. And in part that is true. In the U.S. they are legally bound to maximize shareholders profits. If they decide to become socially conscious and that costs money, shareholders could sue them for not maximizing profits. It should therefore fall on governments, the supposed representative in the service of the people, to demand the best possible “deal” for their citizens, in this case the residents of Minnesota.

THEREFORE: Prove it first! If mining companies prove their technologies will not pollute Minnesota air and water, let them have the minerals they desire. And, to Minnesota politicians at all levels of governance: Strike the best deal you can for all the residents of Minnesota, for the health and wealth of Minnesota. Be informed, and more important, keep us informed.

Be genuine in your dealings with us; we see right through the disingenuous. We don’t need any more governmental “listening sessions”; we need dialogue and governmental transparency.

Richard Watson is a resident of Ely. He writes the Threatened Waters Blog.  

This article was first published in MinnPost  Monday, September 10, 2012


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