What are the risks…

…to a Healthy Environment?

Acid mine drainage, Beartrap Creek, Montana

Acid mine drainage, Beartrap Creek, Montana

When waste rock from sulfide mining is exposed to air and water, it creates sulfuric acid, making rivers and lakes too acidic for aquatic life and leaching heavy metal contaminants from the rocks. This is known as acid mine drainage and it pollutes surface water and groundwater, and kills fish or makes them unsafe for consumption.

Acid mine drainage has polluted water bodies in many other parts of the country. In some cases, this pollution will persist for hundreds or thousands of years.

Minnesota’s wet northern forests are a high risk place to conduct this kind of mining. Are we ready to bring this new form of mining with its long track record of pollution to Minnesota?

…to Taxpayers?

Because of the boom-and-bust nature of the mining industry and because after closure mines don’t generate profit, companies often go bankrupt, leaving behind mines that are polluting the surrounding waters and forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for clean-up expenses.

One solution to protect the environment and taxpayers is financial assurance, a “damage deposit” that companies should provide before mining to cover clean-up costs in the event they are unable or unwilling to do it.

It is very difficult to predict pollution from sulfide mines. If mining companies incorrectly predict pollution, then their calculations for clean-up costs will also be wrong. Here are a couple examples of mines where such problems have occurred:

  • Brohm Mine, South Dakota: Produced acid mine drainage, despite rock that was less than one percent sulfide and predictions of no pollution. The company declared bankruptcy and the mine was designated a Superfund site in 2000. Its pollution will be treated in perpetuity at taxpayer expense.
  • Zortman-Landusky, Montana: After the mining company went bankrupt, the state assumed the costs of clean-up, reclamation, and ongoing water treatment. It is estimated it will cost at least $33 million, and water treatment is expected to be required indefinitely.

Even when a company does provide a “damage deposit” by setting aside money for clean-up in the event of bankruptcy, taxpayers still frequently have to pay because the assets of a company are often awarded to other creditors in bankruptcy proceedings.

…to a Sustainable Economy?

Northern Minnesota’s economy depends on clean waters and a healthy environment.

  • In northeastern Minnesota, tourism brings in $1.6 billion per year, $250 million in local and state taxes, and 33,500 full-time equivalent jobs.
  • The Superior National Forest estimates that it generates $223 million to the region annually in tourism and recreation. Of that, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness brings $30 million annually to the area.
  • The region’s clean water and healthy environment is one of its greatest assets, drawing businesses, employers, and workers who want to live in such a beautiful region with plentiful outdoor opportunities.