Copper-nickel mining opponents have been pressuring Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to be able to answer ‘yes’ to four questions before allowing the copper-nickel mining industry to move forward in Minnesota. Mining Minnesota, the trade association committed to sustainable and environmentally responsible critical and strategic metals mining development in Minnesota, sent a letter to the Governor in late September 2013, giving him the truth about copper-nickel mining.
The letter and supporting fact sheets outline why the answer to each question is ‘yes.’ Here’s a brief excerpt:
1) Will Minnesota’s water stay safe and clean?
YES, our water will be protected and be kept safe. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency have multiple specific water quality standards and regulations. Companies are required to have controls in place to comply with comprehensive environmental standards — assuring clean and safe water, air and land.
2) Are there strong safeguards in place for if/when things go wrong?
YES, safeguards require companies to demonstrate necessary remediation funding. Further, plans are in place to first prevent pollution and, second, address any potential unforeseen issues. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management all require thorough environmental review of potential impacts before permits are issued. Should unplanned issues arise during operation, the Minnesota DNR and MPCA have authority to require corrective enforcement actions to remedy the issues. This requires additional financial assurance.
3) Will the company leave the site clean and maintenance free?
YES, state and federal agencies mandate the reclamation of all mining and processing activity, including mines, tailing basins, waste rock, wetland restoration, re-vegetation of disturbed ground, closure and post closure maintenance. In addition, strong financial requirements in Minnesota assure responsible clean-up. The financial assurance must be available to the state at all times and is adjusted annually by the state. Provisions for post closure maintenance are in place as a tool to eliminate the potential for water quality problems that have been documented from past mining operations in other states.
4) Will Minnesota’s taxpayers be protected?
YES, taxpayers are financially protected and will not be on the hook for paying for anything that is the financial responsibility of mining companies. Minnesota requires state-managed and annually adjusted bankruptcy-proof financial assurance to cover any possible costs before permits can be issued. Minnesota is authorized to deny or revoke a permit if a company does not comply.
Importantly, Minnesotans will benefit from significant job and economic gains from the state producing its natural resources. Payroll and sales taxes for Minnesota, net proceed taxes for local governments, and royalties to the School Trust Fund provide revenue to every school district in Minnesota.