COMMUNITY VOICES | Mining doublespeak at the Minnesota legislature

Sustainable Mining is an Oxymoron – Legislation has been introduced to create a so-called “Sustainable Mining Institute” ( HF 2842/ SF 2632 ).   Money would be appropriated from the state general fund ($3 million for 2015, and may accept funds from outside sources).  Mineral resources are finite, therefore mining is inherently not sustainable. In addition, the mining process depletes clean, sustaining sources of water, and requires enormous amounts of energy. This legislation is unnecessary and is a subsidy to the mining industry to promote more mining.  The Natural Resource Research Institute (NRRI) and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) are already involved in research on mining, along with the Department of Natural Resources Lands and Minerals Division.Any new research money should instead be devoted to a sustainable use of our metals.  Our state could create a Sustainable Usage of Metals Research Institute.  Such research could find ways to recycle metals, repair products made from metals,  engineer more efficient design of products,  increase product durability, increase the longevity of metals already in use, re-source metals from abandoned settings, substitute non-metal materials where possible, and promote boycotting of electronic items that are designed for obsolescence.When our metals run out, they are gone, not to be replaced.  Northeastern Minnesota needs to take a new direction, away from dependency upon a destructive and unhealthy mining economy that is inherently unsustainable.  Email your legislators in opposition to this bill ( HF 2842/ SF 2632 )   Tell them to stop promoting mining and instead support the clean water and intact ecosystems that truly sustain all of us.   Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | It’s time to put PolyMet on the shelf

Take a deep breath, Minnesota public.  The Supplementary Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine is available for public review through March 13, 2014. At stake is whether the state will uphold a project whose own modeling shows that the mine would require at least 500 years of water treatment after closure. Despite public astonishment and outcry, PolyMet and the agencies claim that 500 years of treatment is nothing out of the ordinary.Where is our leadership?When the only jobs that our political and business leaders can promote are those in which the workers will sacrifice the environment for future generations, then Minnesota has a deficit of responsible and ethical leadership. Is it right to put our water resources at risk, when clean water is a main requirement for survival?  Is it right to accept a project because it “minimizes risks,” when those risks will impact generations long after we are long gone.Financial AssuranceOh but,  the agencies and mining companies claim, there will be financial assurance to make sure that there is money available to treat water pollution that would peak in 500 years.So what is the cheapest amount of financial assurance that the mining company can get by with? You can bet your bottom dollar that it would be an amount negotiated to insure that Glencore-Xstrata,  the largest single investor in PolyMet,  doesn’t  threaten to back out. And after the 20 year projected life span of the mine,  who’s going to be counting anyway?  Plus, the majority of the current agency personnel will be retired in 20 years.  So who will be around to check on PolyMet in 20 years, let alone 200?Financial assurance also ignores a basic fact. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The Carving Out of Minnesota’s Future

The Minnesota omnibus energy bill  HF 956 / Companion SF 901 has passed the Minnesota House and Senate and is currently in conference committee. The bills would establish a solar energy requirement, 4% in the House version and 1% in the Senate, to be met by the year 2025. This is a watered down version of a 10% requirement that was backed by a coalition of industrial and environmental groups calling itself the “Clean Energy and Jobs” campaign.Early on in the legislative process, public municipalities and rural cooperative energy utilities were exempted from the solar mandate. Then the Iron Range delegation stepped into the picture, adding language to both the House and Senate bills that exempts the taconite and timber industries from any rate increase attributed to a solar mandate.Senate language exempts a mineral extraction or mineral processing facility or a paper mill that meets the definition of a “large customer facility.” House language states the exemptions as an iron mining extraction and processing facility, including a scram mining facility … Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Rep. Cravaack’s Bill Set to Destroy the North Woods

HR 5544, the Minnesota Education Investment and Employment Act, was introduced by 8th District Representative Chip Cravaack to authorize the exchange of an undetermined number of acres within what is now Superior National Forest for 86,000 acres of State lands within the borders of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  This bill does not account for the mineral rights underlying the surface area of the trust lands and thus leaves the door open for further reduction of Federal forest acreage.The passage of HR 5544 by the U.S. House of Representatives on September 12 sets the stage for the dismantling of Superior National Forest, the retraction of Federal policy to preserve lands of scenic and recreational value for future generations, the negation of Federal policy requiring environmental review and public input when eliminating Federal lands, and the ignoring of Tribal treaty rights.  What HR 5544 does do is facilitate turning the Arrowhead region of northeast Minnesota into a copper-nickel sulfide mining district for the benefit of multinational corporations seeking to extract Minnesota’s minerals and sell them on the global market.Rep. Cravaack has misinformed both his colleagues and his constituents.  He has claimed that HR 5544 is for the benefit of Minnesota’s school children when in fact there has been no accounting of the actual benefit for the school trust fund; if the mineral rights are owned by private interests, no money from mining would go into the school trust.  He claims the minerals are necessary for our strategic interests when in fact the metals would be processed and sold on the global marketplace to competitors such as China.  He claims that no Federal protections will be lost, when lands traded will lose Weeks Act prohibitions against open pit mining, Endangered Species protections, and National Environmental Policy Act requirements for a public environmental review process.  In addition, Rep. Cravaack’s legislative fast tracking ignores Native American Tribal consultation.Rep. Cravaack claims that environmental groups have impeded the removal of state trust lands from within the BWCWA when In actuality it was Iron Range legislators who impeded a land sale in the 1990’s, losing interest money that would have been generated during the past dozen years.Rep. Cravaack’s bill is a giveaway to multinational mining companies who would find it difficult to get permitted without political intervention on their behalf.  Rep. Cravaack ignores the scientific facts which explain why sulfide mining is so insidious, and he ignores the track record left behind by sulfide mining in other states.  Rep. Cravaack was born in West Virginia, grew up in Ohio, and his family now resides in New Hampshire. Rep. Cravaack has no roots or ties to the Arrowhead region of northeast Minnesota, and his introduction of this reckless bill demonstrates his lack of knowledge regarding the history of the BWCAW and the economic value of the scenic character of northeastern Minnesota and the North Shore of Lake Superior.Call Senators Franken and Klobuchar NOW and ask them to refrain from introducing any bill that involves exchanging Federal land for State land.  Ask for a complete land sale of the remaining State lands within the BWCAW, or the addition of a fee to BWCAW permits that would go directly in the Permanent School Fund.  Ask these two legislators to do what is right for the legacy of the Arrowhead region and the future of our children. Call Senator Al Franken’s office at 202-224-5641 (Washington) or 651-221-1016 (St. Paul) and Senator Amy Klobuchar at 202-224-3244 (Washington) or 612-727-5220 (Minneapolis).  See www.sosbluewaters.org for more information.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Bad Deal for the Children, Good Deal for the Mining Companies

H.R. 5544: Bad Deal for the Children, Good Deal for the Mining CompaniesOn June 8, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack’s bill, H.R. 5544, received a committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol. Cravaack explains that approximately 86,000 acres of state owned school trust lands are locked inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and cannot generate money for the state school trust fund.  He states as his goal: “to preserve and protect the Boundary Waters and allow state-owned school trust lands to raise revenue for Minnesota education.” Touted as a bill for our state’s children, H.R. 5544, the Minnesota Education Investment and Employment Act, would exchange Federal land in what is now Superior National Forest for state-owned lands within the BWCAW.Rep. Cravaack’s goal needs some clarification. First, the lands inside of the BWCAW are already protected.  That is why they cannot be logged, mined, or leased. However, lands withdrawn from Superior National Forest lose watershed protection and prohibition against strip mining.  In addition, H.R. 5544 specifically eliminates environmental review and public comment, thus ignoring cumulative impacts and citizen input.Second, while facilitating the exchange of surface rights, H.R. 5544 does not resolve the nearly 100,000 acres of state mineral rights within the Boundary Waters. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Minnesota’s Wolves: Still Threatened

The ink to delist the gray wolf from the endangered species list has barely dried on the paper.  Already the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the state legislature have plans to open a sport hunting and trapping season on the wolf. The DNR is backtracking on earlier promises to keep wolves on a five year watch list after removal from endangered designation.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. The opinions expressed in the Free Speech Zone and Neighborhood Notes, as well as the opinions of bloggers, are their own and not necessarily the opinion of the TC Daily Planet.Wolf as an endangered speciesThe gray wolf was placed on the endangered species list following passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973. Minnesota was the last of the lower 48 states to retain a wolf population.  An estimated 350 to 700 wolves were surviving in the area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Superior National Forest, while a few isolated packs remained in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | For the Sake of Our Children: The School Trust Issue

What happens when state legislators who know nothing about mining team up with legislators from northeast Minnesota who only know mining?  They join forces to remove strategic sections of Superior National Forest from Federal ownership with the intention of promoting mining and mining royalties while destroying the land, “for the sake of our children.”  During the current session, legislation is being introduced to maximize revenue from school trust lands by expediting a land exchange and creating a legislative commission to replace Department of Natural Resources (DNR) management of the trust lands.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. The opinions expressed in the Free Speech Zone and Neighborhood Notes, as well as the opinions of bloggers, are their own and not necessarily the opinion of the TC Daily Planet.When Minnesota became a state in 1858, sections 16 and 36 of every township were set aside in trust for the benefit of schools. The state could use, lease, or sell the land to raise money for education. A  Permanent School Fund (PSF) was established, consisting of accumulated revenues from the land, with only the interest money to be used on a yearly basis. Much of the trust land was sold by the mid 1880’s, mostly for agriculture and development. Continue Reading