What harm could mining do in the watershed of the BWCA and headwaters of the Mississippi River?

In light of the ongoing process to permit the Polymet to mine copper in Babbitt with a processing center in Hoyt Lakes, I am reposting my article first published in November, 2012:

A view of Northern Minnesota as the battle rages for copper, sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area.

 

Recycling

On a walk through one of our parks a few years back, I noticed this growth on the trunk of a tree … a fairly reliable sign that the tree was dying.  New growth from old on a day in October.  It seemed poetic in all the splendor of that fall day.

http://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/forest-ecology/fungi-95/

http://vanessavobis.com/2009/04/maine-tree-fungus/

https://www.thetreecenter.com/common-tree-fungus/

What does wealth mean to you?

 

I had long ago decided to be happy … but got distracted along the way by so many things that occurred to cloud the issue, the issue of living honestly and with integrity … finding joy as a child would, naturally.

One cannot be happy without this and there is no wealth without it either.  Where do you find your joy?

To be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth.  As long as one sorely needs a certain additional amount, that man isn’t rich.

Mark Twain

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

DNR Plans to Sell Mineral Leases in Northern Minnesota Covering Approximately 195,324 Acres

Moose in the Arrowhead ... already affected by global warming
Moose in the Arrowhead … already affected by global warming

The Department of Natural Resources plans to hold a sale of state-owned non-ferrous metallic mineral leases in Beltrami, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods and St Louis counties.  This acreage totals about 195,324 acres.

The notice was published today in the EQB Monitor and State Register, Monday, Jan. 30.  For information on the sale and solicited public comments, please view the DNR’s website and the link below:

State Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Leasing Public Lease Sale

At the recent water summit in Morris, Minnesota, Governor Dayton reported that 40% of the water in Minnesota is unfit for human recreation, in some areas this percent is over 90%.  In the Gulf of Mexico, there is an area of over 120 miles where there is no life … a dead zone, my words not his.  He made the point that, in effect, what we do with our water is everyone’s business.  So true.

It is right and good that we work to protect our waters by educating the public on conservation and clean up measures.  The most effective and best real long term measure, though, would be to stop pollution at the source..  Do we accomplish this by selling the very land and waters that need protection to those who would exploit it?

These leases are being sold now for exploration and this means more intrusions into an already endangered aquifer. The DNR would not sell leases if there was no intent to grant mining permits.  Twin Metals and Polymet are only two interests that seek to mine for copper in these invaluable northern aquifers.

In effect, by selling mineral leases at the source of the Rainy River, the Mississippi or the Great Lakes, and linking money made from any of these leases to public education, the state of Minnesota creates a dichotomy, since mining of these water reserves endangers the future of the intended beneficiaries.  Better yet, invest in equitable education by creating the kind of environment with a future in it.

MPCA / Minnesota’s Imperiled Waters List 2016

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.

– Iroquois Maxim (circa 1700-1800)

 

 

You need water to make beer …

and copper sulfide in the mix won’t cut it:

Three of the greatest water systems in the North American continent find their source in Northern Minnesota.  Polymet, among others, would like to mine copper in the rich, diverse and water dependent ecosystems of St Louis, Lake and Cook Counties.

Once polluted these underground reserves will never be the same … no more land of sky blue waters … and no more beer.

Flying Free?

Mixed Media Photos: This snowy was taken at the Minnesota Zoo and photoshop’d into other backgrounds taken earlier.  It’s easy to see the rough outline in flight of the first.  Took more time on the second.  Fun.

Many years back, in winter, I had seen one land on a streetlight during my break. From the distance, he looked like a huge white gull; and it wasn’t until I had driven closer that I knew better.  Not a sight one sees very often around Minneapolis … and so I hadn’t been prepared.

The size at perch and in flight, so different.  Same for the bald eagle, which seems quite a bit smaller until it spreads those magnificent wings.