Monday, January 21, 2008

Copper mining debate squares off in legislative hearing

Divisive debate on mining copper gets legislative hearing

Supporters, skeptics on northern mining square off


Jan. 18, 2008 Janette Brimmer

Legal Director



Ron Meador

Executive director

Friends of the BWCA


Chuck Laszewski

Communications Dir.



Divisive debate on mining copper gets legislative hearing

Supporters, skeptics on northern mining square off

ST.PAUL--What promises to be a contentious debate throughout 2008 will kick off Friday, Jan. 25 during a joint Legislative hearing by environmental, work force and economic development committees over proposed metallic sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Two Canadian mining companies are vigorously pursuing state permits to mine copper, nickel, gold and other precious metals from sulfide-bearing rock in northeastern Minnesota. Polymet Corp. is expected to release its draft environmental impact statement on its proposed operation in the spring.

Metallic sulfide mining is different from taconite mining and much more hazardous to the environment. Once exposed to air and water, excavated rock produces sulfuric acid that drains into rivers, lakes and even ground water, killing fish, birds and other wildlife. Often the drainage carries toxic metals as well. States are usually left with millions of dollars of clean-up when the mine companies leave, a chore that can go on virtually forever.

Two of the expert witnesses Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is bringing to the hearing will detail the damage done throughout the country by sulfide mining, explain that the Iron Range’s economy has rebounded from the taconite bust of the 1980s and show how sulfide mining could hurt, rather than help, the area’s economy.

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Friday Jan. 25

WHERE: Room 200 State Office Building

WHO: Joint meeting of House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Divisions, Senate Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Division, House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division, and Senate Economic Development Budget Division. The chairs of the committees are Rep. Jean Wagenius, Sen. Ellen Anderson, Rep. Tom Rukavina and Sen. David Tomassoni.

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