Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Would You Risk Ruining Lake Superior Forever...for a Job?

I welcome to my blog my good friend and writer, Janey PalmerShe is a Twin Cities-based communications consultant who owns a home on Lake Superior. Janey isn't typically a politial activist. But there's an issue going on right now in our own backyard that has her hackles raised, and I offered to give her this platform to spread the word. 

Read on and get involved. Our environment's future for generations to come is at stake.

Submerged rocks at Split Rock State Park. Photo credit Steven Gaertner
My hair’s on fire.

No, not literally. But if it were, I’d go to the tap and douse it in water. But what if that water were polluted with sulfuric acid?

The reason my hair is on proverbial fire is because our beloved Lake Superior, the world’s third-largest freshwater lake and home to one of the biggest sources of drinking and hair-extinguishing water, is under threat by mining companies—in the guise of “job creators”— looking to extract copper, nickel and other metals in the very heart of the north woods and at the convergence of streams that carry fresh water into the big lake.
The Lake Superior watershed is one of the most special places in the world.
Poly-Met, a Canadian company, wants to set up the first of what will likely be many copper/nickel mines right outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The byproduct of this mining is the aforementioned sulfuric acid – and the possibility of this leaching into the streams and into Lake Superior is great, despite what the mining companies say (and there is no real contingency plan to mitigate this built into their proposal).

WestVirginians can tell you why clean, fresh water is important. They can also tell you why regulation is important. And they can also probably tell you why regulation doesn’t always stop bad things from happening. 

The offending polluter in that case? Yep, declared bankruptcy.

As a former public relations pro, my hat is off to Poly-Met. They’ve done a great job plying the hearts and minds of the good people of the Hoyt Lakes area as well as labor unions with promises of jobs. Yes, the mine says it will provide 350 jobs for 20 years, but shouldn’t careers be longer than that? And is mining the only way to make a living up there? It can’t possibly be the only choice. I know there are a lot of very smart people who live up there, and I know if given a chance, together we could find a way to bring economic opportunity to northern Minnesota that doesn’t extract such a high price from all of us.

An environmental impact statement said the best case scenario is that this type of mining will require at least 500 years of water treatment. 500 years! Who in their right mind believes anyone would be willing to keep that up for even 50 years? And there is not enough “assurancemoney” in the world to ensure clean drinking water long after the mines close or declare bankruptcy, the latter of which seems to be de rigueur.

So, 350 questionable local jobs x 20 years = 500+ years of pollution. That’s the equation. Does it add up for you?

If not, I urge you to join me in telling the DNR to deny permits for Poly-Met and any other mining operation like it from now on. The time for public commentary is here. We have a short window of opportunity to get our voice heard. Comments will be accepted until 4:30 PM CT on Thursday, March 13, 2014.

To learn more, click here – and be sure to personalize your message. There’s a lot more at stake than my head of curly locks.

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