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Twin Metals

Righteous lawsuits galore vs. Twin Metals

by Dan Burns on July 6, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfideWhatever it takes, to crush the Twin Metals proposal, is justified, from any and all environmental, economic, and ethical perspectives.
 

A group of nine northeastern Minnesota businesses and an environmental group sued the U.S. Department of the Interior (June 21), seeking to overturn the reinstatement last month of two federal mineral leases to a company seeking to build a copper-nickel mine near the border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
 
The plaintiffs, which include a number of canoe outfitters and a resort around the wilderness, argue that the reinstatement of the leases to Twin Metals Minnesota was unlawful, and poses an immediate threat to their businesses, the outdoor recreation economy and the environment.
(MPR)

In addition to galvanizing our members to contact their members of Congress, The Wilderness Society filed a lawsuit June 25 challenging the Interior Department’s recent push to open the area’s fragile ecosystem to sulfide-ore copper mining.
 
We were joined by 2 other conservation groups opposed to the Interior Department’s reinstatement of two expired mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota, a foreign-owned mining company, on Superior National Forest lands.
(The Wilderness Society)

On June 25, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the sulfide-ore mine proposed by Twin Metals, a subsidiary of the Chilean-owned mining conglomerate Antofagasta.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

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Newly emboldened Twin Metals plows ahead

by Dan Burns on June 11, 2018 · 0 comments

bwcaTwin Metals wants to create a big sulfide mine right next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It is a truly terrible idea, in every way, and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton seemed to have more or less killed the project when he publicly agreed with that assessment. But things have changed. First, the Trump administration reversed an Obama call and renewed the leases last month. And now the planners are a hive of busy bees indeed.
 

Twin Metals, the company planning to build an underground copper-nickel mine near Ely, Minn., said (May 24) it will open an office in Babbitt and wants to locate its processing facility east of Birch Lake…
 
Twin Metals officials said plans to locate the processing site east of Birch Lake differs from previous proposals. Before, the company had planned to build it south of the Ely airport and west of Birch Lake. Company officials said mine employees will access the underground mine from the processing site. The facility would be built on about 100 acres of land owned by Twin Metals.
(MPR)

The real power behind this is mining giant Antofagasta. This notes its billionaire owner’s suspicious tie to the current presidential administration, and also has more on the lease thing. The fact that it took the “election” of Trump to bring Twin Metals back from the dead should give anyone pause.
 

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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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Twin Metals leases application gets crushed

by Dan Burns on December 16, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideSweet!
 

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness applauds the decision by federal agencies to deny Twin Metals Minnesota’s application to extend two federal mineral leases. This decision comes after an extensive public input period where over 70,000 people asked the federal government to deny the lease extension. Hundreds of people showed up to public meetings in Duluth and Ely to express their concerns.
 
The Department of Interior also announced it has received an application from the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw federal mineral rights in the Boundary Waters watershed. This starts a public review process to analyze withdrawing federal mineral rights for a twenty-year period. A public input period on this permanent protection for the Boundary Waters will begin once notice is published in the Federal Register and will last ninety days. This review also creates a two-year “time out” when no new federal mineral leases can be issued.
 
“These actions happened because tens of thousands of people spoke up against locating a sulfide mine on the edge of America’s most popular wilderness area,” stated Executive Director Paul Danicic.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

There is more detail in this article from MPR, though I would suggest that it’s too friendly to Twin Metals’ inflated estimates of alleged positive economic impact on the region (start on page 17 of the linked pdf). It notes that Twin Metals says they’re not giving up. If you ask me and a whole lot of other people, it’s high time that they do so. So should PolyMet.

 
And I have to note that I don’t know how much interest Trump & Co. will take in this issue. Obviously efforts could be initiated to reverse the above, and bring about the worst outcomes instead.
 

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nemnRep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) doesn’t often make headlines. I suspect that that is precisely as she wants. But she does work on some really good ideas, and in those instances deserves public notice and approbation.
 

Fifty years ago (May 31), two federal mineral leases were signed for rights to copper, nickel and precious metals, just south of what would become the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
 
Those leases for the area south of Ely, Minn., are now in the hands of a mining company called Twin Metals — but they expired two and a half years ago. Renewal of the leases has languished in Washington, becoming the latest point of contention in a debate over whether mining should be considered so close to the BWCA.
 
The leases were first obtained by the International Nickel Company, which proposed 1,000-foot-deep open pit copper mine on the edge of the BWCA. But after a state moratorium to study the issue, copper prices tanked, and the project fizzled.
 
The federal Bureau of Land Management renewed the leases twice since then, with little fanfare.
 
But not this time. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a St. Paul Democrat, introduced a bill to prevent copper-nickel mining near the BWCA. McCollum says those leases were granted before modern environmental laws were passed.
(MPR)

Governor Dayton has also come out against the Twin Metals plan. The political lines have long since been drawn on this, and despite what some DFL doom-and-gloomers have to say there is no common sense reason to believe that this will somehow turn MN-08 red, now.
 

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minerunoffIt’s not hypothetical. The disaster at a gold mine that was abandoned nearly a century ago near Silverton, CO, is exactly what opponents of sulfide mining in Minnesota have been warning about. Water mixes with crushed rock and leaches out sulfides that make for a nice acid bath — formerly known as Cement Creek and the Animas River.
 

On a scorcher of an August afternoon, a crowd gathered on a bridge over the deep-green waters of the Animas River on the north end of Durango, Colorado. A passerby might have thought they were watching a sporting event, perhaps a kayak race or a flotilla of inebriated, scantily clad inner tubers. Yet the river that afternoon was eerily empty of rowers, paddlers or floaters — unheard of on a day like this — and the mood among the onlookers was sombre. One mingling in the crowd heard certain words repeated: sad, tragic, angry, toxic.
 
They were here not to cheer anyone on, but to mourn, gathered to watch a catastrophe unfold in slow motion. Soon, the waters below would become milky green, then a Gatorade yellow, before finally settling into a thick and cloudy orangish hue — some compared it to mustard, others Tang. Whatever you called it, it was clearly not right.

 
…READ MORE

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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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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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