Public opinion about PolyMet sulfide mining


I was somewhat surprised, and of course quite unhappy, at recent polling results published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, regarding proposed copper/nickel sulfide mining. I had previously been heartened by this, published in March 2013.

A new poll conducted for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership suggests that more Minnesotans oppose sulfide mining than support it.

In a statewide telephone survey by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates and Public Opinion Strategies, 48% of Minnesotans opposed the proposed sulfide mines while 39% favored the mines.
(Northland News Center)

Whereas the Strib polling had this:

It found that 46 percent of Minnesotans who were polled want PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposal to be approved; 21 percent say it should be rejected.

But a whopping one-third say they’re not sure — an indication that many Minnesotans are either uncertain about the trade-offs between economic development and environmental risks to one of the most beautiful parts of the state — or are simply not paying attention to the debate, said J. Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll.
(Star Tribune)

It becomes far more clear when you look at the question in the first poll:

“As you may know, new mines are being proposed near the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior. These are different from the traditional Minnesota iron ore mines. These new sulfide mining operations would be used to extract copper, nickel, and other precious metals from underground rock formations containing sulfur. Based on this description, would you favor or oppose these new mines?”

And the second:

Do you think Minnesota should approve or reject the application from PolyMet for a new copper and nickel mine on the Iron Range?
(Star Tribune)

In other words, an accurate description of what is being proposed, versus no such thing, by any reasonable standard. As is so often the case, though, the corporatists have vast resources with which to peddle BS, and others have far fewer with which to tell it like it is. I don’t watch much hockey, but I certainly got an earful of fatuous drivel from PolyMet during the football Prep Bowl.

Public polling is not the most precise “science,” and it doesn’t take much, for things to look very different, from one poll to the next, on the same issue. A lot of it in this instance is probably that the first question has the word “sulfur,” which people automatically associate with A. religious depictions of eternal torture, and B. certain of the waste byproducts of animal, including human, metabolism. And with PolyMet, we are indeed talking about a lot of sulfur.

Others who, like me, favor environmental protection and general resistance to being played for fools and suckers by greedhead corporatists can decide for themselves whether or not to be “disheartened” by the Strib numbers. I’m just pointing out that this is not a topic regarding which any polling should be regarded as particularly precise, much less definitive.

Incidentally, I will absolutely, publicly admit that I was wrong, if the mining happens and works out as supporters claim: many great long-term jobs, an economic renaissance for the Range, and no environmental damage to speak of. I have my doubts, as to whether most supporters will do the same, if things don’t work out that way. Just a feeling.