Response to Mesabi Daily News editorial (Updated)

In response to the release of “Precious Waters,” the Virginia, MN newspaper Mesabi Daily News published an editorial on Nov. 15 supporting PolyMet and criticizing our efforts to educate Minnesotans about the threats new sulfide mining proposals pose to the state’s clean waters.

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness executive director Paul Danicic promptly wrote the following letter to the editor of the newspaper, which was printed on Nov. 28.

Contrary to the implication of your Nov. 14 editorial, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has not pre-judged the PolyMet proposal or based any of our concerns about its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on fear rather than fact.

Our short film, “Precious Waters,” discusses why nonferrous mines are so prone to causing pollution and leaving taxpayers to pay for the clean-up. And it does exactly what your editorial urges your readers to do: “Allow the public to have its say with various opinions; and let those who know what they are doing evaluate all of the environmental work done over the past few years.”

The point of the film is to encourage informed public discussion so the risks of this mining can be evaluated alongside the potential benefits. Our organization and others have also engaged the assistance of expert geologists, hydrologists and geophysical engineers to help us make sense of PolyMet’s complex proposal. These are people who know what they are doing. Only once we have received their analyses will the Friends make up its mind about the proposed mine.

But, consider this: Groundwater at the PolyMet mine site will in fact be polluted with heavy metals, the West Pit will overflow into the Partridge River at Year 65, contaminating the river, and water leaching from the waste rock piles will exceed water quality standards for up to 2,000 years. That isn’t our analysis, that’s straight from the DEIS, and it’s easily found in a cursory read of the document.

Nonferrous mining represents understandable promise for some residents of northeastern Minnesota and I understand the appeal of the industry’s bold promises about mining jobs, spin-off jobs, taxes, and economic revitalization.

But there are many people all over the state, and many of your paper’s readers, who are eager for sustainable development on the Iron Range. They are also deeply worried about what these new mines could mean for the region’s clean waters and economic health long after the mines have come and gone.


Paul Danicic
Executive Director
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness