Minneapolis Monthly Meeting did not feel it had time to act as a body on the pressing issue of copper-nickel mining in MN but wants F(f)riends who are interested to have access to information so they can participate in a timely way during the public comment period. Making a comment is currently the most effective way to voice opposition to the mining.

Duluth-Superior Friends Meeting
Minute on Copper-Nickel Mining in Northern Minnesota

As Quakers, we are called to live simply, to care for the creation, and to husband resources. In light of that calling, we have been concerned to understand the implications of copper-nickel mining proposed for northern Minnesota by PolyMet, Twin Metals, and other corporations.

Our research leaves us deeply troubled. Traditional mining in this state has been very different from the copper-nickel mining now proposed. Iron ore deposits in northern Minnesota were so rich that originally iron was, essentially, just scooped out of the ground; the copper nickel deposit, by comparison, is exceptionally poor. About 99% of the rock from which the metals must be extracted would be waste, and much of it would have to be ground to the consistency of powder. This waste rock bears sulfide. Sulfide-bearing rock exposed to air and water yields sulfuric acid, producing forms of pollution (including mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxins) that, according to PolyMet’s own documents, will last at least 500 years.

Proponents of copper-nickel mining argue that our current way of life demands these metals, that opening these mines will provide high-paying jobs, and that new technology will prevent pollution. All these claims weaken drastically when scrutinized.

Yes, our current way of life requires copper; however, since copper scrap already provides half of U.S. annual demand for that metal and the U.S. provides 23% of the world supply of recovered copper, recycling holds tremendous potential for fulfilling most of this nation’s needs. Given the devastation that copper-nickel mining commonly leaves in its wake, we are also led to question the wisdom of our current way of life.

The argument that copper-nickel mining will boost the regional economy seems a half-truth at best. Typically, mining companies import their expertise from elsewhere; only half the jobs promised by the mining companies are apt to go to local residents; the highest-paid positions will be taken by outsiders, who will leave the area once the mine has been exploited. Mines are also subject to shutdowns when market prices drop. The metals extracted from these mines will likely be exported; the profits will go to shareholders around the world rather than the residents of northern Minnesota. History predicts that once these mines are exhausted, their owners will declare bankruptcy and absolve themselves of responsibility for damage left behind.

The argument that new technology will prevent pollution is little more than wishful thinking. Sooner or later, copper-nickel waste rock creates acid mine drainage, which often eats its way to ground water. New technology remains experimental, untested on an industrial scale, while exploratory drill sites in northern Minnesota are already leaking acid. Even if technology can be developed to treat copper-nickel pollution effectively, who will pay for, operate, and maintain this technology twenty-four hours a day, day after day for 500 years or more? Corporations come and go; so do governments.

We understand the hunger for jobs in northern Minnesota, though people have lived here for thousands of years without depending on paychecks from multinational corporations. Over the past two decades, while the mining workforce shrank, the economy diversified and grew less vulnerable to the boom-and-bust cycle of the mining industry. We support continued diversification. We support selective, sustainable-yield logging and the development of value-added forest products. We support farming and local food production. We support outdoor recreation, an industry worth billions of dollars every year. And we support iron mining, which is undergoing a revival thanks to new methods and products, although we think this industry requires stricter regulation.

We believe enthusiasm for copper-nickel mining is short-sighted. We are reminded of the Old Testament story in which Esau, entering his father’s tent, ravenous from his hunting expedition, sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. Copper-nickel mining, always risky for humans and their environment, is least dangerous in arid settings; but northern Minnesota, the site of three major watersheds, is one of the richest sources of freshwater in the world. Such wealth requires our most careful stewardship.

After months of study and reflection, with regard not only for ourselves but also for our neighbors and those creatures great and small with whom we share this region, the Duluth-Superior Friends Meeting declares its opposition to copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota.

Approved by D-S Friends Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, 1 Dec. 2013


Sources and Suggestions for Study

NorthMet Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/environmentalreview/polymet/index.html

Bertossi, Teresa and Gabriel Caplett, eds. Headwaters News: Special Issue: Mining, Land & Water (Spring 2010). Print

Carter, Bill. Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story about Copper, the Metal that Rules the World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print

Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. The Scrap Recycling Industry: Nonferrous Scrap, 2011. (fact sheet) Print.

Myers, John. “PolyMet Study: Water would need 500 years of treatment.” Duluth News Tribune, Oct. 5, 2013. Print

Precious Waters: Minnesota’s Sulfide Mining Controversy at www.preciouswaters.org. Video

Save Lake Superior. Minnesota’s Sulfide Mining #1: What’s Wrong With PolyMet’s NorthMet Mine? (fact sheet) On-line and Print.

Save Lake Superior. Metallic Sulfide Mining #2: Track Record: Can sulfide ores be mined safely? (fact sheet) On-line and Print.

Save Lake Superior: Metallic Sulfide Mining #3: Sulfide Mining Projects in Minnesota. (fact sheet) On-line and Print.

Save Lake Superior. Metallic Sulfide Mining #4: Is Northern Minnesota a good location for sulfide mining? (fact sheet) On-line and Print.

WaterLegacy. What are the Facts? PolyMet and Copper Sulfide Mining in MN, 2011. (fact sheet) Print.

Some Websites and Organizations worth Consulting

Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: www.friends-bwca.org

Mining Truth: www.miningtruth.org

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness: www.nmworg.org

PolyMet: www.polymetmining.com

Save Lake Superior: www.savelakesuperior.org

Save Our Sky Blue Waters: www.sosbluewaters.org

Twin Metals: www.twin-metals.com

WaterLegacy: www.waterlegacy.org


Public Meetings and Comments
Copper-Nickel Mining in MN

The Co-lead Agencies will hold three public informational meetings (one has passed) for the purpose of providing information on the project, answering questions and gathering public comments on the Supplemental Draft EIS.

Verbal and written comments on the Supplemental Draft EIS will be accepted at these meetings.

Responses to comments will not be provided during the public meetings; however, staff from the state and federal agencies will be available to answer questions during each open house.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Mesabi East High School, 601 N 1st St W, Aurora, MN 55705
5:00 p.m. – open house
6:45 – 10:00 p.m. formal presentation and public comment period

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Saint Paul RiverCentre, 175 West Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55102
5:00 p.m. – open house
6:45 – 10:00 p.m. formal presentation and public comment period

Weather-related Cancellations
In case of a weather-related cancellation of one or more of the public meetings, the cancelled meeting(s) would be held at the same locations listed above on the following alternative date(s):
– Mesabi East High School – Aurora: Monday, February 3, 2014
– Saint Paul RiverCentre – St. Paul: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Any cancellations, time or venue changes will be posted here and announced via press release and/or social media (e.g., Twitter).

Comments will be accepted until 4:30 PM Central Time on Thursday, March 13, 2014.
Email: submit comments to NorthMetSDEIS.dnr(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)state.mn.us. E-mail submissions should include a full name and legal mailing address

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