Tribes critical of PolyMet’s draft on mining impact – by Marshall Helmberger (Timberjay – September 18, 2013) [Northeast Minnesota]

REGIONAL – Tribal authorities cooperating in the preparation of PolyMet Mining’s supplemental environmental impact statement are expressing fundamental disagreements with key science and conclusions in the 1,800-page preliminary draft document. In addition, they are challenging the longstanding claim by lead agencies and mining supporters that Minnesota has and maintains strict enforcement of environmental rules pertaining to operating mines in the state.

The lengthy tribal comments, provided by the Fond du Lac Band as well as the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, or GLIFWC, appear to have played a role in the latest delay in the expected release of the draft EIS. The report had been scheduled for release in early September, but officials overseeing the project now say the draft version will be released in late November.

The report also faced significant critique by some officials within the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for a large number of errors. Those DNR comments will likely lead to changes before the draft report is issued in November. Some of the tribal comments may lead to changes, but in other cases, those comments will be incorporated into a dissenting view that’s expected to be included in an appendix to the study.

The extensive comment provided by a number of agencies was not unexpected, according to Steve Colvin, the DNR’s Deputy Director for Ecological and Water Resources. “The analyses in the EIS are very complex,” said Colvin. “It is very difficult to describe the relationships among geology, hydrology, geochemistry and water chemistry in a way that is understandable to the public.

The points raised by all reviewers were very helpful in identifying opportunities to enhance clarity, but were not beyond the scope of what might be expected with a draft environmental review document of this scope.”

Tribal concerns

Unlike some Ojibwaebands in Wisconsin, which have actively opposed mining in that state, the Minnesota bands have not voiced opposition to mining in principle. “The direction that I get from Fond du Lac tribal leadership, is that we’re not looking to stop mining,” said Nancy Schuldt, the band’s Water Projects Coordinator. “The bands are not opposed to economic development, but they believe it should happen within existing state and federal regulations.”

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