Gov. Mark Dayton returned from seeing the environmental aftermath of the Gilt Edge Mine in South Dakota on Tuesday with strengthened resolve to guarantee environmental and financial safeguards for a mine proposed by PolyMet Mining Corp.
Dayton said all contingencies must be prepared for and be backed by company money in case something goes awry.
“If it does proceed, this emphasized the importance of doing it right with safeguards to make sure something like this doesn’t happen,” Dayton said upon returning. He added that the visit has made him no closer to a decision on the proposed Iron Range copper-nickel mine.
Dayton is visiting two mines this week on the counsel of opponents and supporters of the project to help guide his decision. Gilt Edge, a Superfund site that was once a former gold mine, has cost taxpayers more than $100 million in cleanup and is a model of what PolyMet opponents say could come to Minnesota.
Dayton will visit Michigan’s Eagle Mine near Lake Superior on Friday to view what supporters of the Minnesota project say is a far more successful mine.
The PolyMet decision is shaping up to be one of the most important of Dayton’s term, a decision that is almost guaranteed to end in lawsuits by whichever group loses, in what has been the company’s yearslong, multimillion-dollar effort to win project approval.
Dayton has explicitly said politics will play no part in his administration’s decision, but he has also not denied the deep divisions the PolyMet issue is causing in the DFL coalition that elected him governor twice.
“There’s no middle ground,” Dayton said Tuesday when asked about pressure from both sides.
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