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Polymet

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)

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To say the least.
 

Final permit decisions on PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet Mining Project are approaching, and for all the celebration of the process by politicians and company promoters here in Minnesota, we have grave concerns. We bring this message from Duluth, where we live downstream of the proposed PolyMet mine.
 
Last week we welcomed a delegation from Amnesty International to discuss their experience with a British Columbia copper sulfide mine upstream of their own communities. This is a group that has heard it all before: promises of safety from mining companies, claims of new technology that isn’t, guarantees of zero discharge, and assurances from government officials that it will all be fine.
 
Unfortunately, in 2014, the dam upstream of them collapsed, sending toxic water and tailings into nearby Quesnel Lake, effectively turning the pristine lake into a waste pit. The Mount Polley dam breach is the worst environmental disaster in Canadian history, and it is ongoing.
(MinnPost)

A related and similarly enlightening item:
 

The outdoor recreational industry contributed toward two percent of the U.S. GDP in 2016, according to a preliminary report the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released (on February 14). It’s the bureau’s first attempt to analyze this economic sector, and it points to the surprisingly large contribution of hunting, festivals, and countless other outdoor activities to the American economy.
 
Indeed, 2 percent amounted to nearly $374 billion in 2016. That’s enough money to fund the Department of Interior 27 times over. And this economy is growing at a faster rate than the general U.S. economy. It grew 3.8 percent in 2016 whereas the overall economy saw just a 2.8 percent rise…
 
With data on this industry available, lawmakers should have no excuse for not measuring the impacts of extraction and other land use on public lands, said Matt Lee-Ashley, senior director of environmental strategy and communications at the Center for American Progress, to Earther. After all, as he pointed out, the mining industry (which includes oil and gas) amounted to just $260 billion in 2016. Outdoor recreation wins in that aspect.
(Earther)

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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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bwcaTwo items.
 

An environmental group says the design for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota has changed in significant ways that require regulators to conduct a fresh environmental review of the revisions.
 
WaterLegacy says changes in the mine’s tailings basin and wastewater treatment facilities, and a new disclosure of how much water would be pumped from the mine, obligate federal and state agencies to take a closer look — a move that could cause further delays in an already long process. The group made the request in a letter (June 29) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other agencies.
 
Paula Maccabee, an attorney for WaterLegacy, said the plans changed between March 2016 when the DNR approved the final environmental impact statement and when PolyMet started submitting permit applications in recent months. She called it a “bait-and-switch” to cut up-front costs. She also said the changes increase the risks of a catastrophic dam failure, pollution spills and damage to wetlands.
(MPR)

(On June 9), Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) appealed an order of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that removed public water protections from many miles of Minnesota streams and rivers. A DNR order in April used a one size fits all approach to delete over 640 miles of waterways from Minnesota’s public water inventory with no public notice, no chance for the public to comment and with no transparency. Because there was no public input, many public waters that should be protected would lose that protection if the DNR’s order is implemented. MCEA appealed to reverse DNR’s order and protect these public waters from being filled, drained, dammed or altered without a permit.
 
“As we investigated waterways that DNR deleted as public waters, we were shocked to discover many weren’t private ditches, but were clearly public waters,” said Leigh Currie, Staff Attorney at MCEA. “DNR’s order, supposedly to correct mistakes, only made issues with the public waters map worse. Dozens of public waters that are not private ditches were erased incorrectly.”
(Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy)

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PolyMet gets its land swap

by Dan Burns on January 11, 2017 · 0 comments

sulfideThis was not a surprise, but it still sucks.
 

Paul Danicic, Executive Director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, issued the following statement in response:
 

“The transfer of thousands of acres of Superior National Forest land to PolyMet is a bad deal for taxpayers, premature, and not in the public interest. No exchange of land can undo the damage that PolyMet would do to this area. The land that PolyMet seeks to mine contains thousands of acres of high-value wetlands that are irreplaceable.
 
The standard for federal land exchanges is that the exchange must be in the public interest. PolyMet would create polluted water that would require expensive treatment for hundreds of years. PolyMet would be the largest permitted destruction of wetlands in Minnesota history. The risk to the St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and downstream communities from this mine proposal demonstrates why it is not in the public interest…

(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

Meanwhile, copper and nickel prices remain at long-term lows in a glutted market, and the inevitable Trump recession will only drive them further into the depths.
 

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Big questions about PolyMet and climate change

by Dan Burns on October 11, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideFrom last week:
 

Environmental groups have asked the federal government to do a more thorough analysis of potential climate change impacts from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.
 
While most of the debate has centered on potential water pollution from the mine, new federal guidelines finalized in August instruct agencies to fully account for a project’s greenhouse gas emissions and societal costs associated with those emissions.
 
“We’re talking about the equivalent of putting over 150,000 new vehicles on Minnesota roads,” Aaron Klemz, advocacy director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said of PolyMet’s potential impact.
(MPR)

It’s not very likely that PolyMet’s permits will be denied. But that is only the least of the righteous obstacles yet to be overcome. Court challenges, public pressure, and continued soft markets for copper and nickel will all be more daunting.
 

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New developments on Minnesota sulfide mining

by Dan Burns on September 14, 2016 · 0 comments

Tailings Pond Breach 20140805Twin Metals is going to court to try to get old mineral leases renewed.
 

Paul Danicic, Executive Director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness issued this statement in response:
 
“We’re deeply disappointed that Twin Metals is suing to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from conducting a diligent and comprehensive review of their mineral lease application.
 
Over 65,000 public comments were submitted this summer opposing renewal of these leases near the Boundary Waters. The BLM and U.S. Forest Service have heard from thousands of people that sulfide mining on the edge of the wilderness is an unacceptable risk. Twin Metals’ lawsuit seeks to silence them…

(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

The Duluth City Council shot down proposed PolyMet hearings.
 

Backers of the proposal argued that a contested case hearing — as this process is also known — would add something new to the regulatory process. J.T. Haines of Duluth said such a hearing would weigh competing claims of whether PolyMet can mine safely.
 
“Unlike public meetings … where much of the time people simply state their opinion without scrutiny, a contested case hearing would provide a more rigorous forum, including subjecting testimony to cross-examination, a key distinction,” Haines said. “That’s something both sides should welcome.”
 
But after lengthy debate, the City Council voted against the resolution. Councilor Barb Russ said it was the job of the Minnesota DNR to decide whether evidentary hearings on PolyMet are needed.
(MPR)

You have your good days and your not-so-good ones. The saga is ongoing.
 

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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.
 

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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.
(Timberjay)

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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.
 

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