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sulfide2Sorry I missed this one when it happened, almost a month ago. Glencore is the real power behind the PolyMet proposal, and it’s Glencore that would be carrying the bulk of any actual profits from PolyMet sulfide mining far, far from the Iron Range and Minnesota. As well as leaving a massive, toxic mess in its wake, and all that.


Glencore, the world’s biggest mining company, faces a potential investigation by US authorities for alleged money laundering, after being ordered to hand over documents to the Department of Justice…
The subpoena relates to compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and US money laundering laws, Glencore said.
The documents requested relate to its business dealings in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela, from 2007 to the present day.
(The Guardian)


stoppolymetContrary to what may have been implied by some corporate media headlines this morning, the state’s decision to call the final EIS “adequate” is a very little deal. It was fully anticipated and pretty much rote, even though by any reasonable standard the thing is far from adequate. Now things get really interesting, because PolyMet/Glencore has to, among other things:
– Get permits in the face of huge remaining questions (as well as new ones that one senses are likely to appear);
– Deal with expert, vigorous, entirely justified legal challenges;
– Decide to sink megabucks into a new operation, in the face of a worldwide glut of industrial metals that is projected to continue indefinitely;
– All in the face of growing public opposition (despite PolyMet’s continued infestation of televised state high school sports tournaments with its noxious drivel).
Obviously, I’m not going to wish PolyMet’s, and Glencore’s, poobahs good luck with all of that. Quite the contrary.


Serious obstacles for PolyMet

by Dan Burns on February 5, 2016 · 0 comments

stoppolymetAnd I’m a little more confident, these days, that they won’t be overcome.

Paula Maccabee still holds out hope that the state and federal agencies whose permission is needed to open the door to copper–nickel mining in Minnesota will yet come to their senses — but just in case they don’t, she is prepared to sue.
As attorney for WaterLegacy…Maccabee submitted an 80–page comment to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act…
Now that the “Co–Lead Agencies” (PolyMet, the DNR, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Forest Service) have finalized their plans, PolyMet can begin applying for a multitude of federal, state, and local operational permits — and mining critics can begin sharpening their legal arguments to fight back.
Maccabee says the Final Environmental Impact Statement violates Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which governs the regulation of discharge into American waterways. “In their words, if you want to destroy the waters of the United States, there are specific requirements under the Clean Water Act.”
(Zenith City News)

But righteous people may not even have to go to court.

The announcement late last Wednesday that Glencore had agreed to loan PolyMet another $11 million to pay for an update to its definitive feasibility study, was greeted by some as a piece of good news — that suggests the giant Swiss-based commodities broker still sees potential in the company’s NorthMet copper-nickel mine despite the recent collapse in metals prices.
Yet the terms of the loan, and the likely results of the feasibility update, point to a project that’s teetering on life support. While PolyMet saw a bump in its stock price in November with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, investors have grown increasingly pessimistic ever since. As of this week, the company’s stock price had recovered slightly, to 89 cents, but is still down 20-percent since its post-FEIS peak. Savvy investors can’t be unaware that major copper mines around the world are being shuttered by companies like Glencore, Rio Tinto, and others, in a desperate attempt to stem the financial bleeding and the production oversupply that has cut copper prices in half from their peaks in the late 2000s.
The nickel market has been even more brutal, as prices for the metal have fallen by nearly 75 percent from the levels that PolyMet had assumed in its 2008 update of its feasibility study…

Even if an updated financial assessment shows a modest profit, it’s difficult to imagine the scenario under which the massively debt-laden Glencore opts to sink another $650 million into copper-nickel production it needs like a hole in the head.


miningThis is from December 22, and is based on the release of the Environmental Protection Agency review of PolyMet’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.

A quick read of the cover letter the Environmental Protection Agency released yesterday with its thoughts on the PolyMet Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) would appear to show a federal agency warming to the idea of authorizing the state’s first ever sulfide mine.
But the four pages of detailed comments attached to the letter reveal a different narrative showing that federal regulators remain concerned about the lack of data and lack of specificity on a number of the key issues of the proposal…

The EPA confirms northward flow of polluted water into the BWCA and Voyageurs National Park watershed “is a possibility” and that “further impact assessment is needed.”

(Mining Truth)

Let’s say that you’re at work, out partying, or whatever, and are having a polite, informative conversation about this issue with someone who has not yet made up her mind. The likelihood of the project fouling northern Minnesota’s pristine wilderness preserves is one of the points that I think most worth emphasizing. Two others:

Glencore is a vile company run by sleazeballs and with a horrific record of labor and environmental abuses. There is every reason to believe that it will cut corners every way it can on environmental protection, pay and treat its workers poorly, shut down everything whenever metal prices slump, and eventually cut and run, laughing all the way to the mega-Swiss bank, as Minnesotans are stuck with the enormous long-term cleanup bill. That one is especially effective because people hate feeling that they’re being lied to and taken advantage of.

– That same Glencore doesn’t even want to provide a reasonable damage deposit, as an honest indicator of worthy intent. Everyone understands damage deposits, and most have had to personally provide them sometime in their own lives.
If you can get people taking something personally (because they should), that’s good persuasion that works.


Stop PolyMet rally Tuesday in St. Paul

by Dan Burns on October 13, 2015 · 0 comments

stoppolymetFrom the Facebook event page.

It’s time to join together and tell the DNR our final answer is “no.” The time to #StopPolyMet is now! Join MEP, MPIRG, and many others in a rally and walk to the DNR building to kick off the #StopPolyMet campaign.
We will gather at Weida Park starting at 3:00 PM. A rally with headline speaker Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth begins at 3:30 PM. At 4:15 PM, people will walk to the DNR Headquarters to deliver petitions asking them to #StopPolyMet. There will be great speakers, music, and your chance to be among the first people to tell the DNR your final answer on PolyMet.

I’m adding a couple of recent, relevant items. First, you may have seen that PolyMet and Glencore are tanking. You know it’s serious when company execs are frantically trying to hold up prices with their own money, to try to keep other investors from really freaking out. From Oct. 2:


miningDue to depressed and likely to stay that way global markets for industrial metals. The final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed PolyMet sulfide mining project in northern Minnesota is expected in November. Subsequently, Gov. Mark Dayton will have a big decision to make. Presumably he will take matters like this into account.

You see, PolyMet recently released its second quarter financials, and it made just as much money in the last quarter as it has every quarter of its existence, going back to 1981.
None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. That’s thirty-six years of solid financial performance. That’s because PolyMet has never been a miner and has never operated a mine. All hat and no cattle, except without the hat…
That just leaves prominent underworld figure Glen Core to loan shark PolyMet out of the jam. After all, he’d done so several times in the past. But dealing with Glen Core always has a price: loss of equity by other shareholders, including Sen. Housley, because Glen always gets an equity spiff.
Glen Core is, of course, Glencore PLC. Glencore is the largest shareholder in PolyMet, and it is PolyMet’s Sugar Daddy, too. It has PolyMet tied up six ways till Sunday; it has loaned PolyMet millions and has a first lien position on everything that PolyMet owns.
But sadly, even the Sugar Daddy has fallen on hard times. The Business Insider reports that Glencore’s stock is on a skid, too, and that its credit rating is imperiled. Glencore stock is way off for the last year:

We may as well be ready for efforts during the next legislative session to hit up Minnesota taxpayers in general for subsidies to keep PolyMet going. Though they’ll presumably try the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) first.

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Tailings Pond Breach 20140805From yesterday:

On the anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster, ten Minnesota conservation groups called on Governor Mark Dayton to prevent a similar disaster from happening in Minnesota…
The letter to Governor Dayton states, “the Mount Polley Independent Review Panel’s recommendations should have been a wake up call for Minnesota. Instead, it seems that Minnesota hit the snooze button.” One year after the tragedy, the PolyMet sulfide mine proposal in Minnesota has not implemented the recommendations of the Mount Polley Independent Review Panel. Instead, PolyMet continues to propose storing their mine waste mixed with water behind a forty year-old dam, on top of the tailings and slimes from the shuttered LTV taconite mine. A simulation of a PolyMet tailings dam failure conducted in 2013 showed over 25 structures downstream could be inundated within hours of a dam failure.
(Mining Truth)

The “Preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement” is not a public document, and I’m not sure whether it’s cool for me to blockquote from it, here, so I won’t. Basically, the issue of a possible massive tailings dam breach is included in an appendix, which says a) they’ve thought about it; b) there are things they could do to lessen the risk; c) they really don’t see the need. Surprise.

Governor Mark Dayton acknowledged earlier this week that whether to let the mining proceed will be a tough call. (He’s welcome to just turn the whole issue over to me. I’ll be glad to lay it out, in full, for Glencore and its political allies: “F*ck, NO!!!” But I suppose that he’s not about to do that.) My guess is that he’ll finesse it, giving a sort of conditional approval with strict environmental controls and a big (well into nine figures, at least) damage deposit. We probably won’t know until next year.




PolyMet doesn’t cut it in DNR report

by Dan Burns on June 29, 2015 · 0 comments

Tailings Pond Breach 20140805Not even close.

State regulators have released a much-anticipated third version of a preliminary environmental report on PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposed mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area…
PolyMet officials are praising the report as a major milestone. But critics say the environmental impact statement, which details how the company plans to treat water from the mine’s leftover waste and abandoned mine site, doesn’t include enough safeguards to protect northeast Minnesota’s fragile environment.
“We’re either talking about a catastrophic release of toxic waste, or a long-term slow seeping of toxic waste from this site,” said Aaron Klemz, communications director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “Either way, we think it’s a bad deal for Minnesota.”
…Environmental groups are planning a news conference for Monday to detail their objections to the proposal. Among them, Klemz said, is that the document dismissed a major Canadian mine accident in 2014, in which a dam holding back a tailings pond at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine burst, releasing over 1 billion gallons of waste into nearby lakes and rivers.

(The image is of part, just part, of the aftermath of the Mount Polley disaster.)
An excellent article also recently appeared about the project’s real owner/operator, the horrific multinational conglomerate Glencore, detailing its appalling history:


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)


“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)