An Open Letter to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

Dear Governor Dayton,

The headwaters of the Mississippi, the Rainy River and the Great Lakes, as we know, originate in northern Minnesota extending through the heartland of this country to the Gulf, the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and the Rainy River to Hudson Bay; and, so, water knows no boundaries, especially those drawn on a map.  It permeates all of life.  It is our base.  Words will not change the truth that we, as Minnesota citizens, have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but to the entire biosphere, now and into the future, to preserve this vital, rare and important aquifer that is Minnesota.

I have watched the prescient actions of your office involving our water legacy … the studies and the foresight to do things that have been lacking for too long.  For over one hundred years, the state of Minnesota has condoned mining in the Laurentian Divide and for one hundred years, the Mississippi has suffered all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  The Great Lakes, too, have seen damage. The waters of the St Louis River are imperiled because of mining.  Even the Rainy River watershed has not escaped mining pollution.  Elevated levels of lead and mercury … not including acid rain from coal-fired plants that support mining operations, smelters and other correlated equipment have done their part to imperil this once pristine aquifer and landscape, where the great inland freshwater sea of Lake Agassiz drained its cache.

In spite of this over one-hundred year history of mining in Minnesota, the mention of damage done by one of the river’s greatest polluting industries is rarely mentioned, if at all, in regard to the resulting pollution downstream.  In fact, the Environmental Impact study done on the NorthMet Project for Polymet was done using computer simulations … as if there were hardly any field studies at hand.

I hear that Polymet will “create jobs”.  I hear that the XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline will create jobs too … the failsafe claim of these polluters.  How much better to create jobs that sustain the environment rather than destroy?  What better than to change the framing of this picture?  Desperate measures to sustain an industry that will destroy these vital water reserves, in an ecology that has no precedent on Earth, will serve no one in the long term.

By allowing mining of the precious waters of northern Minnesota, we endanger a vital resource for the entire planet.  Mineral leases in the watershed of the Rainy River will ensure damage to the Quetico, the lands surrounding the Superior National Forest and the BWCAW.  Granting Polymet the right to mine and process the waste in Babbitt and in Hoyt Lakes will be a grant to mine, not only copper, but water.  The pollution will find its way into the deep reserves of the area, to the Great Lakes and possibly into the BWCAW, as it will set precedent for further mining of the sort.

Can we excuse this for any number of jobs, jobs that will be here today and gone tomorrow?  Neither you nor I, Governor Dayton, will be here when our children and grandchildren have to answer for the decisions we make today. We will not see a clean-up of these waters … for there is no clean-up possible once copper mining begins.  It took 10,000 years, or more, for the pristine, glacial waters of Agassiz to permeate this precious aquifer.  There is no knowing the extent to which it could be damaged by copper sulfide mining.

No one person can make the necessary changes in toto.   These must be made by all of us changing the way we work and play, the choices we make.  As Governor of Minnesota you have a mandate above and beyond that of a resource manager as you so aptly prove.  You are the designated caretaker of this important aquifer, duly elected by the people of Minnesota and that role cannot be overstated.  Your water initiatives and the two summits give hope.  It would be well that the Minnesota legislature works with you to accomplish this very important work.

Sincerely,

Anita Suzanne Tillemans

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aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine
aquifers surrounding the Babbitt area where Poymet wants to build a copper mine
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Author: Anita Suzanne Dedman-Tillemans

For love of wilderness.