What Is Proposed

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PolyMet Mining Corp. – The “snowplow”

PolyMet is the furthest along in the environmental review and permitting process. In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the company’s draft Environmental Impact Statement a failing grade, calling the mine’s environmental impacts “unacceptable” and the review itself “inadequate.”

PolyMet is now back at the drawing board trying to develop a new plan that won’t present such serious pollution risks. Unfortunately, the company has not changed its plan to destroy more than 1,000 acres of pristine wetlands; if approved, the project would represent the largest such destruction ever permitted in Minnesota.

PolyMet is a junior mining company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. The company has never operated a mine before, and is backed financially by the Swiss company Glencore. Glencore controls about 20 percent of the company, and has an exclusive agreement to sell the mine’s metals on the global commodities market.

While PolyMet doesn’t have a track record to consider, Glencore does. The company was founded by Mark Rich, the financier embroiled in scandal and pardoned by President Bill Clinton. The company has been implicated in environmental disasters, labor violations, and human rights abuses around the world. In 2010, it made headlines for hiring former BP CEO Tony Hayward, the man who was in charge when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused the largest oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009. He was made infamous for saying how he would “like his life back” while the water was being polluted and whole communities were being devastated by the spill.

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Twin Metals – Next door to the Boundary Waters

While PolyMet is in the Lake Superior watershed, and threatens rivers that flow into the St. Louis River, another company is proposing a mine just a few miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Twin Metals is developing a proposal for an underground mine next to, and maybe even under, Birch Lake, outside Ely. Any pollution from this mine would contaminate waters that flow through the popular White Iron Chain of Lake and ultimately into the wilderness.

Twin Metals is a partnership between the junior mining company Duluth Metals and the massive Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta. Antofagasta has a history of bad behavior:

“In the arid north of the country [Chile}, where the government has prioritized copper mining, farmers and copper mines struggle to co-exist. Both need water, but the major copper mines, with support from the government and plenty of capital, are buying up the water rights. Farmers, many poor and without powerful friends in the government, are seeing their rivers and streams dry up — or worse, become so polluted they can’t use the water.” Continue reading …

Twin Metals has also hired two other companies with questionable records to help it develop the mine.

  1. Engineering firm URS was brought in to design the mine — the same company which paid more than $50 million to victims of the I-35W bridge collapse in a settlement over a lawsuit which claimed the company cut corners in its inspection of the bridge, missing the flaws which caused it to collapse in August 2007, killing 13 people.
  2. The mining company Bechtel Mining & Metals was hired to lead Twin Metals’ Pre-Feasibility Study – In Papau New Guineau, two mines designed by Bechtel dump hundreds of thousands of tons of waste into streams and rivers each day. An accident at one of the mine dumps killed four local people in 2000. The Grasberg and Ok Tedi mines are having an “irreversible impact” on the water and forests of the area.

Twin Metals acquired Franconia Minerals in 2011, a company that controlled mineral deposits underneath Birch Lake and along the South Kawishiwi River. The acquisition could allow Twin Metals to significantly expand its proposed mine.

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