Protecting Minnesota’s Waters from PolyMet Copper-Nickel Mine Pollution

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Every single place that Copper-Nickle-Sulfide mining has been done — every. single. location. — the mining companies left behind a destroyed landscape. There have been no exceptions.

This sort of mining can not be done without destroying the landscape.

It is quite possible that Minnesota’s boundary waters are not saving, and we should just mine out the copper.

Or, not.


Want to see for yourself what’s at stake if the proposed PolyMet open pit copper-nickel mine is permitted in Northern Minnesota? Watch this new documentary, “Journey to Protect Minnesota’s Waters: Revealing the Contested PolyMet Mine Site,” shot on the proposed PolyMet mine location on Minnesota’s Partridge River in the Lake Superior Basin.

Featured in this 14-minute video filmed by Robin Heil are interviews with Fond du Lac elder, Ricky W. DeFoe, WaterLegacy advocacy director Paula Maccabee and forester Matt Tyler; and original music by Twin Cities guitarist Timothy ”Brother Timothy” Frantzich and Powwow Singer Algin Garyt Goodsky as well as the breathtaking scenery of the Partridge River in the Lake Superior watershed.

For more information on how you protect the Lake Superior and Boundary Waters watersheds from toxic mining pollution that would lead to an environmental catastrophe, visit

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In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
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13 thoughts on “Protecting Minnesota’s Waters from PolyMet Copper-Nickel Mine Pollution

  1. I recently moved to Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, to work with the researchers at the Vale Living with Lakes Center as a post-doc. My projects are all concerned with the forests and wetlands in the Sudbury area that were destroyed (or merely heavily damaged, if further away) by the emissions from the three nickel-copper smelters that operated here for many years. One of the smelters was decommissioned in the early 1970’s, and the other two have undergone multiple rounds of emissions-reductions since that time, most visibly with the construction of the INCO Superstack, an extremely tall chimney that was completed in 1972.
    Early mining and smelting here was shockingly polluting, employing open-bed ore roasting techniques in the early years of the 20th century that released vast clouds of sulfuric acid laced with high concentrations of Ni, Cu, Pb, and other metals. Combined with the history of clear-cut forestry up to mid-20th-century, the boreal forest here was cut down and then poisoned out of existence. Some places around here still have soils (what hasn’t eroded away following total loss of vegetation) with pH as low as 2.2, but these are increasingly rare because of ongoing regreening efforts that are celebrating 40 years of activity this year.
    The regreening of Sudbury is working. We can argue about the precise definition of a forest, but it is beyond dispute that trees planted on limed-and-fertilized soil in 1979 and later are growing well all over Sudbury. I am not arguing that the damage has been erased – far from it! – but that ecological restoration can return this heavily damaged ecosystem to an optimistic ecological trajectory. I like to think of it as directed primary succession.
    Two of the smelters are still operational, and there are at least a dozen mines in and around the city. Currently, Sudbury’s air quality ranks in the middle of Ontario cities, and the lakes (there are 331 lakes in Greater Sudbury) are mostly at pH and metal-concentration levels tolerable to the fish species that are native to this region. We’re not out of trouble yet, not by a long shot, but by almost every reasonable metric of ecosystem health, Sudury is doing better year by year.
    That we can see increasing plant biomass, soil organic matter, and aquatic biodiversity with two operational smelters and the infrastructure that supports them suggests to me that Nickel-Copper-Sulfide mining is, just maybe, compatible with the protection of existing healthy ecosystems in areas where mining and smelting have not yet occurred.

    “This sort of mining can not be done without destroying the landscape.”

    The history is clear: you are quite correct, every mine of this type has devasted the environment for kilometres around. But, I don’t know if you are correct that it can never be done without severe ecological damage. Maybe it cannot. But I think Ni-Cu mining can be done in a way that minimizes the ecological consequences to something like the mine’s footprint (not small, a few hundred hectares at least), rather than the wide-spread devastation resulting from previous practices.

    Now, do I trust whatever company is proposing to mine Nickel and Copper in Minnesota to conduct their operations at least as well as the two multinationals in Sudbury are now doing? No, of course not. I think it’s possible to mine these metals in an environmentally non-devastating way, but I don’t think it’s likely that such a new mine would be run to such a high standard without plenty of evidence. Even if it were Vale or Glencore, the two companies operating in Sudbury, I would need to see clear signs that they would take their responsibilities as seriously in your neck of the woods have they have done here (at least, done here recently).

    1. Billy, I’m not gaslighting anyone, but thanks for the link.

      Two facts you are ignoring, one of which I suspect you know, the other not.

      1) Mining of all kinds in all places is based on the business model of going in, getting the minerals, and getting out with minimal liability.

      2) This particular area, in the Boundary waters, is a wild and environmentally sensitive area. It was already set aside for preservation. Nobody should be building anything here, let alone a mine.

  2. GL, sorry but the area is not in the BWCAWQ .

    Federal Land
    (Superior National Forest land
    to be conveyed to PolyMet)
    The federal land (6,650 acres) is a
    contiguous tract of forested land located
    at the northern boundary of the Superior
    National Forest, approximately six miles
    south of Babbitt in St. Louis County.”

    BWCA, is one of Minnesota crown jewels with few supporting
    mining in that pristine region.

    BTW, governments own too much land in the first place.

    1. “BTW, governments own too much land in the first place.”

      Wondered how long it would be before some asshole tossed that line out. It wasn’t long, and the a-hole’s identity isn’t any surprise.

    1. No, your comment is stupid because you don’t have any rational reason for it — but you’ve never made a rational argument for anything, so that isn’t a surprise. It seems simply spouting libertarian bullshit is enough for you.

      Equally stupid: assuming that when rational people call out your stupidity and behavior means that those people are socialists.
      a) There is no reason to believe that’s true
      b) Baseless accusations are your specialty
      c) You’ve never given any indication you’d understand the definition of socialist

      I don’t know why this land is owned by the government, so can’t make any statement. You’d need to look at the original reasons, determine what benefit results from keeping it from development, etc, to begin to make a reasoned argument.

      The assessment of your latest statement (and all your others) stands.

  3. “Wondered how long it would be before some asshole tossed that line out. It wasn’t long, and the a-hole’s identity isn’t any surprise.”

    This clown is also very toxic and should be regulated and
    permitted by the local authorities.

    1. Don’t like having accurate descriptions made of you billyR? Stop deserving them.

  4. “Radical despair is, of course, nothing new; philosophers and scientists and intellectuals and religious figures have been predicting mankind’s inability to exist in harmony with the planet, and the ruination this will cause, for centuries. From Malthus to Ehrlich to Mann, doomsday has never lacked for prophets.”

    btw, k9DEAN, government land should be give to the people
    and not held for little reason by the bureaucracy. Of course,
    this simple Marxist logic did not occur to you.

    Does anyone want my membership for the Club of Romana?

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