I first heard about the proposed Polymet open pit mine some years ago and just as I feared it is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.
I hear they plan to use a sulfide mixture to leach out the precious metals they find once they start crushing rocks. As I understand it, the process will require a lot of water. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day by one estimate. And where does the water sulfide mixture go once they are done leaching? It goes into huge holding ponds. The holding ponds, like anything else made by man, can break and leak. Where does the water/sulfide mixture go then? Into the bogs, creeks, and rivers that are downhill from the holding ponds.
One of the rivers near the site is the Cloquet River that flows into the St. Louis River. The river that defines our northern and eastern boundaries on this Reservation. Where does the water/sulfide mixture go after that? Into the fish, the deer, the plants and animals that drink from that river. The water could then enter my personal food chain because I eat fish, deer meat, and wild rice and other plants.
With that in mind I decided to attend the mining forum held at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. The forum participants were from Polymet, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wild Life Commission and the Fond du Lac Reservation. I went because I wanted to know who would be trying to poison me with a water/sulphide mixture. I wanted to hear what the people from Polymet would say.
A representative from GLFWIC started by explaining how mining works and showed pictures and maps from various other mines in the 1837/1854 ceded territories. Here on the Rez we are downstream from Polymet.
We learned more about mining from Fond du Lac’s environmentalist Nancy Sthuldt. We also learned how Fond du Lac would be involved in making sure the mining operation was done without poisoning me.
Brad Moore, Polymet, was next up and he told the Polymet story.
Finally, Chair Karen Diver spoke about how Polymet would have to meet all environmental regulations and what Fond du Lac would do to protect us and our resources. Her talk was stopped by bursts of applause from the crowd.
The evening ended with questions from the audience. Everyone was invited to the front of the room to say what they were thinking. As for me, after listening all evening to all sides at the forum I came to the conclusion that I never met a Polymet I liked.