This op-ed by Rolf Westgard states the damage done by the Twin Cities DFL in its attempts to killing precious metal mining projects.

Last spring, Conservation Minnesota created a website telling Minnesotans that projects like the Twin Metals mining project near Ely and the PolyMet precious metals mining project near Hoyt Lakes would severely damage watersheds. Mr. Westgard refutes that:

There is a 714-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement(DEIS) for the Polymet Project from the Minnesota DNR and the Corps of Engineers. It is clear from the Statement that any effluent from the project ends up in the drainage areas of the Partridge and Embarrass Rivers. Those rivers flow south to the St Louis River and Lake Superior, not north to the Boundary Waters.

The DEIS is generally positive about the project, and it suggests that if all of Polymet’s commitments are met, there is no serious impact on the environment. The following quote from the DEIS on the Partridge River applies to its analysis of all three rivers involved: “Even with these higher loadings and assuming no natural attenuation, the model results indicate that water quality standards for the Partridge River would be maintained for the eight constituents studied (i.e., antimony, arsenic, fluoride, cobalt, copper, nickel, vanadium, and sulfate) under all flow conditions and mine years modeled. Therefore, even using relatively conservative assumptions, the Proposed Action is not predicted to result in any exceedances of surface water quality standards for the Partridge River at the modeled locations.”

Simply put, the DEIS’s findings refute everything Conservation Minnesota and Alida Messinger said about these mining projects. What’s more important is that Conservation Minnesota’s fearmongering-filled campaign against Twin Metals, PolyMet and other proposed mining projects might have a significant impact:

The state of Minnesota owns more than 6,000 acres of land in the region, and I estimate that Minnesota’s schools would collect at least $2.0 billion in royalties in the coming decades if these new mining projects proceed. This state property is known as “school trust lands.” Under the Minnesota Constitution, income from such lands is earmarked for the Permanent School Fund, which contributes about $60 per pupil to every school district. An analysis by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources projected that the school fund, with assets of $720 million, could more than triple in size with these new royalties over 25 to 30 years.

In other words, preventing these mining projects from happening is stealing $60 per year for each public school student for the next thirty years. That’s the impact that Conservation Minnesota and other militant environmentalist organizations would have on school funding.

What’s most disturbing is the fact that the EPA is essentially admitting that they’re rejecting PolyMet’s proposal for political reasons:

PolyMet is the furthest along in the environmental review and permitting process. In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the company’s draft Environmental Impact Statement a failing grade, calling the mine’s environmental impacts “unacceptable” and the review itself “inadequate.”

Dr. Westgard isn’t the oil companies’ shill. He isn’t the mining companies’ shill either. Dr. Westgard is “a professional member [of the] Geological Society of America and is guest faculty on energy subjects for the U of Minnesota LIfelong Learning program.” If Dr. Westgard is convinced that the Arrowhead, the Iron Range and especially the Partridge River won’t be negatively affected by these projects, then it’s imperative that these projects get started ASAP.

These projects will rejuvenate the Iron Range’s economy while pouring significant money into K-12 education without hurting the environment. Why wouldn’t Conservation Minnesota, the Metro DFL and the Silent Six jump at this win-win-win opportunity?

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6 Responses to “Twin Cities DFL kills mining again, Part II”

  • eric z says:

    “If all of Polymet’s committments are met …”

    Pigs fly before mining does not cut every corner it can get away with.

    Corner cutting is how mining profits are maximized.

    And this draft impact statement, who paid the piper to call that tune?

  • eric z says:

    One thing I have missed in all this discussion, Gary, something you can be helpful on if you know the answer.

    Has Polyment successfully and without major environmental consequences done at any two places worldwide, this type of mining, on this scale, in largely comparable environmental situations?

    If they have that kind of “take it to the bank” track record I would have expected it to have been a big part of discussions already.

    Absent that, it is “Trust me” without any track record deserving trust, or do I misunderstand mining and how a past relates to a likely present and future?

  • Gary Gross says:

    Eric, You’re living 150 miles away from the Range. You’re clueless about the Range’s geography. These environmentalist organizations have lied from the start about the damage these mines will do.

    They didn’t factor in the continental divides & how the water runs away from the Superior National Forest.

    If you want to argue about this, first study whether any of these organizations’ claims are physically possible.

    As for these companies’ track records, they’re irrelevant because they’re proposing to use existing environmental infrastructure.

  • walter hanson says:


    You might want to check your reading skills. The post clearly states it is DNR. It’s not the mines.

    So if Pollymet gets to make money by hiring thousands of miners and spending millions of dollars to build a mine or more than one mine you don’t want them to do that.

    So Eric if your reading skills are bad do you understand a business not making an investment that it wants to make the people being harmed are the workers who will get hired (oh I guess you don’t want people to get jobs).

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  • eric z says:

    Walter, thanks. I reread the post. First time through I missed all the detail about the mining track record Polymet has to offer, its skills and its sensitivty about acid rain and other ills. Thanks for pointing that all the detail was there. Appreciate it greatly.

  • walter hanson says:


    You need to reread one more time. This was from the report, “The DEIS is generally positive about the project, and it suggests that if all of Polymet’s commitments are met, there is no serious harm to the environment.”

    So Eric if there is no serious harm to the environment then there was no reason for Dayton, Ritchie, or Swanson to vote no let alone.

    So Eric you’re admiting besides not being able to read that you don’t want to employ people on environmentally safe projects.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

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