Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

Statewide View Column: Closing down coal gives China’s, India’s iron industries an edge – by Isaac Orr (Duluth News Tribune – September 16, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Xcel Energy recently made headlines by announcing it wished to close down its coal-fired power plants 10 years before they were previously scheduled to retire.

However, it would be nothing short of a disaster for Minnesota’s mining industry, both present and future, if Minnesota Power pursued a similar path by closing the coal-fired Boswell Energy Center at a time when China and India are greatly expanding their use of coal.

Mining requires an enormous amount of energy. In fact, the MinnTac mine in Mountain Iron reportedly uses more electricity and natural gas than the entire city of Minneapolis, and only the coal-fired Boswell Energy Center can provide the affordable, reliable, around-the-clock electricity needed to keep Minnesota mines competitive in a global marketplace. Continue Reading →

Should we mine copper and nickel in Minnesota … to help defeat climate change? – by Walker Orenstein (Minn Post – September 11, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

Just as steel made from Minnesota’s iron ore powered the U.S. military to victory during World War II, supporters of copper-nickel mining in the state say the industry could help defeat another global challenge: the climate crisis.

Demand is on the rise for renewable energy and electric cars that rely on copper, nickel, cobalt and other metals. And as the world continues to transition away from fossil fuels, the need for those minerals will only continue to grow.

In August, Gov. Tim Walz told MinnPost the state should allow mining if it expects to reach a carbon-free future. “There’s 5.5 tons of copper in every megawatt of solar, and it comes from somewhere,” he said. Continue Reading →

Local View Column: Let’s have honest conversations about copper-nickel mining – by Dean DeBeltz (Duluth News Tribune – August 16, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Dean DeBeltz is director of operations and safety for Twin Metals Minnesota. He is based in Ely.

As people gather for the Wild Waters Music Fest in Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park today, there will be much conversation about what needs to be done to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

As Twin Metals Minnesota’s proposed mine plan moves through the regulatory process, those of us who work in mining will be an important part of those conversations — not only because we, too, care deeply about the Boundary Waters but because we are committed to the health of the communities of Northeastern Minnesota, where our common future lives.

The Iron Range we know today was built on both mining and the wilderness. The forests of northern Minnesota have been home to mines and logging operations, outfitters and outdoor adventurers continuously for more than 130 years. Continue Reading →

A dam collapse in Brazil has some worried about PolyMet’s plans. Why the DNR says it won’t happen here – by Walker Orenstein (MinnPost.com – August 13, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

In January, the tailings dam at a Brazilian iron ore mine collapsed, killing nearly 250 people. The wave of toxic waste and mud also wrecked two dozen buildings and polluted water for five miles.

In Minnesota, the disaster raised eyebrows among opponents of a copper-nickel mine planned near Hoyt Lakes. That’s because the design of the dam in Brumadinho was similar to one PolyMet Mining hopes to build. In fact, the Vale mining company had used a method to judge dam safety created by a PolyMet adviser.

And the tragedy in Brazil embodied the worst fears of some Minnesota environmental activists and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who warn PolyMet could pollute the St. Louis River. Continue Reading →

Thunder Bay: Opponents to copper mine in Northern Minnesota hope to rally support in Fort Frances, Ont. – by Jeff Walters (CBC News Thunder Bay – August 14, 2019)

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/

A proposed copper mine in Northern Minnesota will get some attention Wednesday evening at a public meeting in Fort Frances, Ont. The Coalition to Save the Boundary Waters hopes to get some support from Canadians, and wants people in Fort Frances to speak with government to try and have Canadian politicians oppose the mine south of the border.

“This type of mining in sulfide bearing ore inevitably leads to the degredation of water quality,” said Becky Rom, the Chair of the coalition. “And yet, what we have here are interconnected waters, and our water quality is extremely good.”

Rom said water discharged from the mine would lead to the Boundary Waters, and through Quetico Provincial Park before reaching Rainy Lake and Rainy River, which include Canadian and U.S. waters. Continue Reading →

Court upholds MN rules in copper-nickel mining challenge – by Dan Kraker (Minnesota Public Radio – August 5, 2019)

https://www.mprnews.org/

The Minnesota Court of Appeals Monday dealt a setback to several environmental groups challenging the state’s rules governing copper-nickel mining.

The groups argued in a lawsuit that the state’s rules over mine waste disposal, mining areas and permits to mine for “nonferrous metallic mineral mining” are too vague for courts and regulatory agencies to enforce, and don’t adequately protect the environment.

It was among several suits filed by conservation and environmental groups after the state approved PolyMet Mining’s controversial proposal to build Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine late last year. Continue Reading →

ENVIRONMENT: From ‘they need it’ to ‘it’s going to destroy the land,’ people in Ely have a lot of thoughts about Twin Metals – by Walker Orenstein (MinnPost.com – July 29, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

At Ely’s annual Blueberry/Art Festival this weekend, the debate over copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) was nearly as visible as the food, music and crafts for sale.

Dueling booths run by supporters and opponents of Twin Metals Minnesota and the controversial underground mine it hopes to build dotted Whiteside Park on Friday as thousands of people streamed through the small town in northern Minnesota for the first day of the festival.

One of those tents was run by Up North Jobs, a pro-mining nonprofit that declared the weekend “Twin Metals Appreciation Days” in honor of the company’s continued investment in Ely. Just across the park was Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, which warned fairgoers of the risk that copper-nickel mining could be to the BWCA. Continue Reading →

Twin Metals changes its plan to deal with mine waste — to a strategy lauded by some environmentalists – by Walker Orenstein (Minn Post – July 18, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

The safety of storing mining waste in a tailings basin has been a critical part of the debate over copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota, with some environmental advocates warning that failures and spills could unleash toxic slurry into nearby waters.

Now, in a major shift, one of two companies hoping to build a copper-nickel mine says it plans to store much of its waste using a “dry stack” method, an emerging technology that many of the same environmental nonprofits — and some mining experts — argue will better prevent water pollution.

Twin Metals Minnesota, which plans to mine just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, said Thursday it would abandon its plan to use a tailings basin, which entails waste rock being covered in a pond held back by a dam. Continue Reading →

Clean water or mining pollution for the nation’s favorite wilderness? – by Mike Dombeck (The Hill – July 8, 2019)

https://thehill.com/

When you picture wilderness, the first thing that comes to mind may be the shoreline of a clean, unpolluted lake. Which is reasonable given the protections we provide to national wilderness areas.

But that is likely to change if the Trump administration and Twin Metals Minnesota have their way. Twin Metals is a mining firm owned by Chilean conglomerate Antofagasta.

The aggressive push by the Trump administration to force approval of a sulfide-ore copper and nickel mine in northern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest will almost certainly pollute the waters of the nation’s third largest National Forest and vast Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The administration recently announced renewal of two mining leases for Twin Metals. Continue Reading →

OUR VIEWS: GLENCORE TRAGEDY SHOWS WHY MINING SHOULD BE DONE HERE (Mesabi Daily News – June 29, 2019)

https://www.virginiamn.com/

As news filtered out Thursday that Glencore had established itself as the majority shareholder of PolyMet, which is looking to build Minnesota’s first-ever copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, devastating headlines about the Swiss-based company were also breaking.

At least 43 “illegal miners” died at a Kamoto Copper Company mine, operated by Glencore’s subsidiary Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Glencore later said the incidents were not linked to the official “operations and activities” of the mine.

While clandestine miners, who access sites without approval or permits, are a common occurrence in Congo and across Africa according to Reuters, the incident raises several questions in light of Glencore’s new role on the Iron Range. Continue Reading →

Protesters oppose Minnesota mine at PolyMet AGM in Toronto (CBC News – June 26, 2019)

https://www.cbc.ca/

Groups say Canadian-owned copper-nickel mine is threat to water flowing into Lake Superior watershed

Human rights and environmental groups protested at the PolyMet annual general meeting Wednesday over a proposed copper-nickel mine recently approved in Minnesota, about 50 kilometres from the Canadian border.

Ottawa-based PolyMet has recently obtained final state permits to move ahead with construction of the NorthMet mining complex, which would have three new open pits, waste rock heaps, and a permanent tailings waste dump on a site in the St. Louis River watershed which drains into Lake Superior.

The activists are concerned over the risk of tailings spills which could harm a sensitive watershed, kill fish and affect Indigenous wild rice beds. Representatives from Amnesty International Canada are framing it as a rights issue, pointing to the Mount Polley mine disaster in B.C. when a dam failure sent toxic tailings into a watershed used by Indigenous people. Continue Reading →

A Mammoth Commitement to the Iron Range – by Lee Bloomquist (Mesabi Daily News – June 2019)

https://www.virginiamn.com/

MOUNTAIN IRON — Sit in the cab of United States Steel Corporation’s brand new electric shovel at Minntac Mine and you’ll know why it’s such a big deal.

A refrigerator. Microwave. A Pioneer sound system that will rattle the windows. Full climate control. USB ports. LED lighting. Panoramic glass in front of you and at your feet. And an operator’s chair with comfort settings that make it feel like a king’s throne. But it’s more than creature comforts that make the $20 million-plus shovel the real deal.

The 2,390,000 pound custom-painted AC-Drive P&H 2800XPC shovel is a sign of U.S. Steel’s confidence in the future of iron ore pellet production at Minntac Mine. It’s also a long-term commitment by U.S. Steel to its Minntac employees and to Iron Range communities founded on mining. Continue Reading →

PolyMet Mining closer than ever to getting Iron Range mine operational – by Mike Hughlett (Minneapolis Star Tribune – June 25, 2019)

http://www.startribune.com/

Despite fears over mine’s environmental effect, company is confident

HOYT LAKES, Minn. – After years of planning and contention, the derelict taconite complex in Hoyt Lakes is closer than ever to hosting Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mining operation.

Backed by global-mining giant Glencore, PolyMet Mining Corp.’s executives are courting bankers for nearly $1 billion to finance the project, hoping to start construction next year. New concerns have blown up recently over one of PolyMet’s environmental permits, though the company said it doesn’t expect the mine’s progress to be impeded.

“It’s going to happen,” said Jon Cherry, PolyMet’s CEO. “It is so rare to get a fully permitted mine at this time in the United States.” Continue Reading →

PolyMet Mining, DNR win a round with Minnesota appeals court ruling – by Greg Stanley (Minneapolis Star Tribune – May 28, 2019)

http://www.startribune.com/

In a victory for PolyMet Mining Corp., the state Court of Appeals said Tuesday that a plan to open Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine can move forward without a new environmental review.

The ruling resolves the first of several lawsuits filed by environmental groups since the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued PolyMet a set of permits last year to construct the $1 billion mine near Hoyt Lakes.

With federal and state permits in hand, those lawsuits are the last major legal hurdle PolyMet needs to clear before it can begin work on what it calls its NorthMet mine. Continue Reading →

The Uncertain Future of the Boundary Waters – by Stephanie Pearson (Outside Magazine – May 20, 2019)

https://www.outsideonline.com/

At 1.1 million acres, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the largest and most popular backcountry destinations in the U.S. and a longtime proving ground for adventurers. But now the region is facing the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. Stephanie Pearson paddles into the wild.

The new moon is invisible, and the night is black. My sister, Jen, is paddling in the stern. Her shivering wobbles the bow where I’m sitting. Canoeing in 45-degree weather at midnight dressed in T-shirts and underwear is not our normal behavior while camping in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in September.

But an enormous black bear is on its hind legs, ten feet away, aggressively swiping at the food pack dangling from a low tree branch at our campsite. By the sound of its grunts, it’s hungry.

In our panic, we failed to forage for layers. Jen scooped up her sleeping bag and white Labrador, Sunny, I grabbed my knife and headlamp, and we tripped over ourselves to get to the water’s edge, where we launched the canoe. Continue Reading →