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Antofagasta

Ramming destruction of the BWCA down our throats

by Dan Burns on February 1, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfideThose involved in this latest disgrace are doing something really unconscionable. Hopefully they’re happy with how future generations will see them, in light of the poisoned land and water of what was one of North America’s finest wildernesses, if this project does happen.
 

Less than a year later, it turns out the study (of the Twin Metals proposal) will be cancelled after all, to be replaced by an “abbreviated” environmental assessment, according to the Washington Post, which obtained a draft news release prepared by the Forest Service.
 
An irate (Rep. Betty) McCollum condemned the discovery on Friday, saying, “The Trump administration’s decision to abandon a comprehensive and public Environment Impact Statement appears to demonstrate that an Interior Department hell-bent on advancing toxic mining is calling the shots about the future of this untouched wilderness.”
(City Pages)

People should be aware of the personal relationship between the boss of Antofagasta, and therefore of Twin Metals, and the Trump family.

 
Related items:
 

(On January 5), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources published a draft permit to mine based on PolyMet Mining’s application and published a draft set of permit conditions. This initiates a public objection period on the draft permit that ends on March 6, 2018. The permit to mine is a central permit required for PolyMet to operate a copper-nickel sulfide mine in Minnesota, and would be the first such permit issued in Minnesota history.
 
Mining Truth released polling today conducted in December 2017 by Public Policy Polling showing a plurality of Minnesota voters oppose PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel mine.
(Mining Truth)

– Some good news: An effort to relax water quality standards pertaining to wild rice was recently blocked.
 

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sulfideHere’s more background about sulfide mining proposals in Minnesota. Those in the state who won’t let the horrific Twin Metals proposal die an easy death may mean well by their own lights, but are in fact exercising extremely poor judgment.
 

Trump’s Interior Department is reinstating two 1966 leases, written before today’s federal environmental laws, that could allow a Chilean mining company to build a giant copper-and-nickel mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters wilderness area in northern Minnesota.
 
The mining company is controlled by Andrónico Luksic, whose family controls a mining, banking and industrial empire that Forbes estimates is valued at $13.1 billion. Luksic also dabbles in Washington, D.C., residential real estate and has a business relationship with the Trump family. He is First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner’s and First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s landlord…
 
Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Antofagasta PLC, sued in federal court over the leases for 4,800 acres on the southwest border of the Boundary Waters even before the Obama administration decided in December 2016 against renewing them.
(DCReport.org)

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Setbacks for the MN sulfide mining crowd

by Dan Burns on June 8, 2017 · 1 comment

sulfideI did not expect this first one. Maybe Trump has some kind of personal beef with Twin Metals’s owner, the ecological disaster-monger Antofagasta. Whatever the motivation is, here, it looks good to me.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice late Monday filed a motion asking a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit by Twin Metals that seeks renewal of federal mining leases that had been withdrawn by the Obama administration.
 
The move is a blow for copper mining supporters who had hoped the Trump administration would drop opposition to the lawsuit and re-issue the permits to allow the mine to advance…
 
Twin Metals sued to get the leases back. Now, the Justice Department is fighting that effort, a sign that the Interior Department under Trump may be sticking with the moratorium.
(Duluth News Tribune)

Minnesota’s mining regulators at the Land and Minerals Division of the Department of Natural Resources face a stiff test of fidelity to the citizens of Minnesota as described in an article by Josephine Marcotty in the Strib’s paper edition on May 14th. The issue is: what are the financial reserves that must be set aside to assure the state that PolyMet’s proposed mine will be cleaned up and closed properly, maintenance free, with no losses to the state?
 
Two sets of experts have looked at the cost of pre-planning PolyMet Mining Corp.’s funeral, so to speak, and the numbers are grim. The state’s own retained experts say it’s in the neighborhood of $650 million, while an independent expert, who delivered a presentation at the University of Minnesota recently, said it was more like $934 million, up front. That is just shy of a billion dollars, people. That is three or four times PolyMet’s market capitalization, let alone book value.
(Left.mn)

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sulfideThis is not the PolyMet project. It is the one proposed for right next to the BWCA. Governor Dayton, among many others, already publicly opposes it. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) has proposed federal legislation to block it.
 

U.S. Forest Service officials on Monday said they are “deeply concerned” about potential impacts of the proposed Twin Metals copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and announced a public comment period before the agency’s decision on extending mining leases for the project.
(Duluth News Tribune)

More:
 

Antofagasta PLC holds two federal mineral leases that were issued in 1966 as part of their Twin Metals Minnesota proposal. One of these mineral leases includes land within a quarter mile of the wilderness boundary. The Forest Service has been asked by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management whether it “consents” to the extension of these leases for ten more years. If the Forest Service does not give consent to extend these leases, Twin Metals’ sulfide mine proposal on the edge of the Boundary Waters would be prevented from polluting the wilderness…
 
The Forest Service will start a thirty day public input period beginning on June 20th, one week from (Monday). They will also hold a public hearing on whether to deny the Twin Metals leases in Duluth on July 13th. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness will be there in force, and intends to gather tens of thousands of public comments supporting a decision that protects the BWCA from sulfide mining.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

As for PolyMet, it’s still in the process of getting more permits. The world markets for copper and nickel remain ugly. (Click on the link and look at, for example, the five-year copper chart.)
 

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BACKPACKING5-251006-162122The next scheduled major action for Polymet is release of the final EIS in November. I thought that in the meantime I’d note a couple of book suggestions, about the natural glories of Northern Minnesota. They are The Singing Wilderness, by Sigurd F. Olson, and Boundary Waters: The Grace of the Wild, by Paul Gruchow. Though I like a walk through a meadow or forest now and then, roughing it for days, much less weeks, in the wilderness is well beyond my scope. I nonetheless found both books pretty amazing.
 
The Singing Wilderness was first published in 1956, and has become quite well known. Many of its essays had been drafted a decade or more before then, which puts it with the also celebrated A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, from 1949, as one of the first successful popular books extolling American wilderness.
 

(p. 23) I chose the Kawashaway, now known as Kawishiwi, for the most important expedition of the year, the time when the snow was gone from the ice and the waters from its melting had drained through fissures into the depths below. It was the time when the wilderness of the forbidden land was as alone as it used to be. I wanted to have it to myself so that when I was deep within it I might discover some of the secret of the Chippewas, sense some of the ancient mystery surrounding it. If I did not find what I sought, I still would know the beauty of the country at the time of awakening, when there was a softness in the wind and the long-frozen land was breathing again, expanding and stirring with life after months of rigid immobility.

(If that rings a bell, yes, Twin Metals, in reality just fronting for mining mega-corporation Antofagasta, eventually wants to put a sulfide mine right about where the Kawishiwi enters the BWCA.)
 
Most of Olson’s book isn’t like the above. Rather, it’s straightforward narrative and description. But it’s so compelling…I’m one of those people that every year around October or so, I wonder whether I don’t actually belong someplace like Panama or Thailand, where I can just blissfully bake all year. Yet Olson’s description of being in an old cabin in the north woods in the middle of January actually had me thinking that that might be a cool thing to do.
 
If you ask me, Gruchow is one of the best writers that Minnesota has produced. That being said, his writing is generally more painstaking and allusive than, for example, Olson’s, and reading him can be more of an effort. (Gruchow was undoubtedly heavily influenced by Olson. Among other things, Boundary Waters, like The Singing Wilderness – and, for that matter, Gruchow’s Journal of a Prairie Year – is split into four parts named after the seasons.) But it’s well worth it. A couple of excerpts:
 

…READ MORE

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Checking up on Minnesota sulfide mining

by Dan Burns on February 2, 2015 · 1 comment

is-polymet-a-good-deal-300x300First, this:
 

Ongaro’s suggestion that those who use metals (live in society) are disqualified from asserting viewpoints about how we manage public resources is reductive and insulting. We don’t need more “we use metals for stuff” puff pieces. What does “copper is useful” really tell us? Minnesotans understand that we use metals. Commenting on the production, sale, use, and re-use of those resources is not environmental hypocrisy, it’s responsible citizenship…
 
When pro-Minnesota advocates talk about sustainability, we are not, as Ongaro argues, advocating for a “utopian” vision. We are advocating for the best and healthiest possible future for our communities. And we simply don’t believe that future includes PolyMet and Twin Metals as currently conceived.
(Newspeak Review)

Schedule-wise:
 

“The commissioners’ stated goals give us optimism the EIS can be finalized by early spring and we can have permits in place during the 2015 construction season in northern Minnesota,” (PolyMet president and CEO Jon) Cherry said.
(PolyMet website)

 
Duluth Metals is the parent company of Twin Metals Minnesota, which wants to mine right next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Duluth Metals’s stock had dwindled to virtual penny status. From January 14:
 

Under the Arrangement, Antofagasta will, subject to the provisions of the arrangement agreement dated November 21, 2014 between Duluth and Antofagasta (the “Arrangement Agreement”), acquire all of the outstanding common shares of Duluth (“Duluth Shares”) (other than Duluth Shares held by Antofagasta and its affiliates) at a price of CDN$0.45 per Duluth Share in cash (the “Cash Consideration”).
(CNN Money)

So the dream of befouling the BWCA itself, from right next door, stays alive. The important thing about the buyout, politically, is no more crap about how this whole sulfide mining thing is really just born-and-bred, true-blue Iron Rangers trying to do the ol’ homeland a good turn. It’s entirely in the open now that this is all about the multinationals, and anyone who still buys any denials of that is just being a purblind, if perhaps well-intentioned, fool.
 
Whether the Minnesota legislature, which has plenty of mining diehards, will indulge in any direct involvement this session to try to override the permitting process or anything like that, seems unlikely. It wouldn’t be a gimme that it would help. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), who is indeed on fire for sulfides, got some things he really wanted last session (like the Senate Office Building), but was foiled on others. (He would have preferred that the minimum wage increase be held to a nominal pittance.) In any case, any obvious legislative involvement/spotlight may well not be what PolyMet/Glencore or Antofagasta want, at this point. I will note that there is an effort to gut wetlands mitigation law, which would presumably make the mining forces happy.
 

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amd_300You know, this is accurately indicative of what this whole sulfide mining misadventure has really been all about, so far.
 

The company that designed, engineered, and oversaw the construction of the (collapsed) Mount Polley tailings dam, Knight Piesold, also provided the Department of Natural Resources and PolyMet with technical advice on the current proposal for the PolyMet project. In fact, Knight Piesold Vice President Bryan Ulrich is listed as a Geotechnical Engineer on the DNR’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the PolyMet project.
 
A few miles up the road, the Twin Metals mining project has employed the engineering firm URS. Many Minnesotans remember them as the contractor hired to evaluate the fatigue of the 35W bridge before it collapsed, and the designer of the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge over Hiawatha Avenue, which was forced to close after a design malfunction a year and a half after it opened.
(Mining Truth)

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amd_300This is a very important online article about the mining proposals in Minnesota, that I need to pass along. I really encourage clicking and reading the whole thing. With PolyMet and Twin Metals, we’re talking about financial houses of cards that are deliberately constructed that way.
 

Given the dissolute nature of the thirty-three-year old ne’er-do-well PolyMet, and given the evidence of the faithless nature of the senior mining companies in general, you’d think that the regulators at the DNR would be screaming and demanding a guarantee of the environmental liability obligations of PolyMet by Glencore, wouldn’t you?
 
Well, my friends, you’d be sadly mistaken if you thought that. At the hearing on financial assurances in the Minnesota House last session that I mentioned earlier, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said they would not seek guarantys of environmental liability obligations from shareholders of PolyMet, even a large shareholder like Glencore, which is in practical control of PolyMet.
 
You can bet your bottom dollar that the moment that Glencore decides, We don’t see the upside, that the State of Minnesota, its citizens, its environment, and even PolyMet, itself, will be holding a potentially very large bag. That is an especial concern when the mine closes, in say twenty years, and there is no more revenue coming from it.
(Left.MN)

And this one has valuable debunking:
 

If you take U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden’s words literally, he’s making a lofty promise.
 
On at least a couple of occasions, when discussing regulations on mining jobs, McFadden has pointed to the copper and nickel reserves in northern Minnesota.
 
“It has Bakken-type economic impact on our state,” he said on conservative talk radio in May. He repeated the line when talking with MinnPost’s Eric Black a few weeks ago. “It’s a game-changer for the region.”
 
“Bakken” refers to the oil- and gas-producing region in North Dakota, an economic engine that has completely transformed the western half of the state in under a decade.
 
And there’s where the analogy falls apart. If industry-favored projections are correct, copper and nickel mining would, right away, provide a modest boost for Minnesota’s economy, while potentially leading to bigger gains in later years. But those estimates, rosy as they might be, produce not even one-tenth the jobs Bakken has created in North Dakota.
(MinnPost)

To buy into “industry-favored projections” is indicative of just jaw-dropping naivete. And/or, of course, personal agendas.
 

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