Agencies critical of PolyMet proposal

An article in the Oct. 18 Duluth News Tribune newspaper covered the imminent release of the PolyMet Draft Environmental Impact Statement (which is expected to be available on the DNR’s website this week; the public comment period begins Nov. 2). The article reports on several of the comments from government agencies and Native American tribal entities that question the document’s completeness and accuracy.

The Environmental Protection Agency expressed several concerns about the project’s environmental impacts:

“We continue to have concerns related to potential impacts to water quality, wetlands impacts, mitigation and cumulative impacts to air and water quality,” wrote Kenneth Westlake of the EPA’s Regional office in Chicago, in an Aug. 25 letter to Army Corps of Engineers officials in St. Paul.

The EPA also stated its belief that the document was incomplete because it failed to address financial assurance, which would prevent taxpayers from getting stuck paying for mine clean-up if PolyMet someday goes bankrupt, as has been the case many times in the past with these types of mining companies:

“Given the history of adverse environmental effects resulting from some hard rock mines, and the expenditure of public funds used in some cases to address environmental problems caused by mining, EPA believes it is necessary to analyze” financial assurance issues during the Environmental Impact Statement phase of projects, an EPA newsletter noted in August.

Three bands of Minnesota’s Ojibwe, with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commision, pointed out that the environmental impacts of the mine could last for thousands of years:

“Tribal cooperating agencies note that, under the proposed project, this facility will need to treat water for hundreds or thousands of years to avoid contamination to the Partridge River,” the band’s comments noted.