Weather Forecast


Letter: EPA did not approve PolyMet mine plan

A June 28 Bemidji Pioneer article about U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan contained inaccuracies that need to be corrected.

The article asserted that the federal EPA has approved plans for a PolyMet copper mine in the Minnesota Arrowhead region and also that the area would be restored to its original terrain and the contaminated water treated. Those are both inaccurate statements.

The EPA did not approve PolyMet’s mine plan. They rated it as containing insufficient information to fully evaluate the environmental impacts and noted environmental concerns about the proposal. The EPA listed 37 specific concerns about the proposal that need to be addressed before it can be considered.

Acid mine drainage is what results from bringing sulfur-bearing minerals into contact with the atmosphere. Sulfuric acid is created along with wanted and unwanted heavy metals.

All of the water coming off the huge mine tailing piles which will be created will need to be collected and treated to remove those pollutants for decades and maybe centuries after PolyMet has left the building.

There are 1,500-year-old Roman-era hard rock mines in Europe that are still producing acid mine drainage pollution today. The problem will last far longer than the mine will be in operation.

PolyMet’s own mine plan calls for many years of treating polluted water after their proposed mine would close, and the area would be off limits to people and require ongoing maintenance and monitoring for decades, even centuries.

PolyMet is not and cannot guarantee they will take care of the pollution and expenses for decades, much less centuries.

The people of Minnesota will be left to pay the bills and the region will pay the environmental price for that sulfur and unwanted heavy metals getting into the huge system of lakes and rivers in the Minnesota Arrowhead long after PolyMet has gone.

I like Rep. Nolan, but it’s worrisome that he doesn’t seem to understand PolyMet’s own plans and what would be required after closure.

William E. Smith