Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

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 →

Conservation groups ask Court of Appeals to strike down Minnesota’s metal mining rules as too vague – by Jennifer Bjorhus (Minneapolis Star Tribune – May 16, 2019)

http://www.startribune.com/

With a new mining boom on the horizon for Minnesota’s Iron Range, lawyers for a coalition of conservation groups told an appellate panel Thursday that state rules governing metal mining are inadequate to protect the environment.

The case is the first legal test of Minnesota’s environmental rules for copper-nickel mining, and comes as international companies plan the state’s first hard-rock mines: two large copper mines near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) in northeastern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and other advocacy groups filed a petition challenging the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rules last December, shortly after the agency issued a key and final permit to PolyMet Mining Inc. Continue Reading →

Trump administration opens up Minnesota wilderness area to copper mining – by Valerie Volcovici (Reuters U.S. – May 15, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday renewed two mineral leases near the Boundary Waters Wilderness area in Minnesota, a key step in opening the popular wilderness and recreation area up to copper mining despite heavy opposition from local and national conservation groups.

The department’s Bureau of Land Management granted the hardrock mineral leases inside the Superior National Forest to Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, a subsidiary of Chile’s Antofagasta, with the aim of expanding domestic mining of “critical minerals” used in common appliances and products, saying it is beneficial to national security because it reduces foreign imports.

“Mining strategic metals in the United States is beneficial to national security, national and local economies, and job creation,” the Interior Department’s assistant secretary Joe Balash said in a statement. Continue Reading →

Minnesota’s PolyMet Mining move could result in Glencore majority ownership – by Mike Hughlett (Minnesota Star Tribune – May 7, 2019)

http://www.startribune.com/

PolyMet Mining plans to raise $265 million in a stock offering to existing shareholders, a move mainly intended to pay off debt to the company’s longtime backer, mining and commodities giant Glencore.

Depending on how the offering shakes out, Glencore may end up with majority ownership of PolyMet, which plans to develop Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine. Switzerland-based Glencore already owns 29% of PolyMet.

In March, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted PolyMet the last major permit it needs to proceed with the controversial project on the eastern Iron Range. PolyMet still faces several legal challenges to the mine and processing plant, and it must raise money for the $1 billion project. Continue Reading →

Boundary Waters at Risk – by Carlos Rivero Lopez and Jenny Rowland-Shea (Center for American Progress – May 8, 2019)

Center for American Progress

Trump’s Attempts to Shortcut Science and Ignore Local Concerns Are Endangering Minnesota Wilderness

In early April, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) faced off against Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue during a hearing of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.

The congresswoman lambasted Perdue for the last-minute cancelation of a two-year study meant to determine if mining should be allowed on the doorstep of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the nation’s most visited wilderness area.1 The study was canceled 20 months into the 24-month review.

“Twenty months of collecting public input, 20 months of science-based assessment, and all you released was a one-page press release,” objected McCollum, calling the press release “completely inadequate.” Continue Reading →

Minnesota environmentalists step up fight against Twin Metals’ copper project – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – May 6, 2019)

http://www.mining.com/

A coalition of businesses, environmental advocates and outdoor recreation groups in the state of Minnesota, U.S., have gone to court challenging a Trump administration’s decision that opened the door to a copper, nickel and platinum project in a wilderness area.

Chilean miner Antofagasta (LON:ANTO), through its subsidiary Twin Metals, is in the midst of carrying out a feasibility study for the project, an underground copper-nickel mine and processing facility along the shores of Birch Lake and the South Kawishiwi River, which lie in the Rainy River watershed.

It’s the location of the project which has triggered concerns among locals. Last week, more than two dozen former U.S. Forest Service staffers sent a letter to the government, outlining the risks a proposed mine in the area would carry. Continue Reading →

Opinion: They tell you surprisingly little before sending you home from the hospital with… – by Aaron J. Brown (Hibbing Daily Tribune – February 9, 2019)

https://www.hibbingmn.com/

Like a lot of kids who grew up on Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range during the economic crisis of the 1980s and ‘90s I saw plenty of reasons to leave. Many of my friends did. But I’m glad I found good reasons to stay. Many friends did that, too. That doesn’t mean, however, that our lives are easy or our fate resolved.

When I was in college, I saw the movie “October Sky.” This 1999 film tells the true story of a boy and his friends who, during the Cold War space race, launch their own rocket from a West Virginia coal mining town. They win the national science fair with help from the folks back home.

I also sought out the 1941 Best Picture winner “How Green Was My Valley.” This story follows a Welsh coal mining family over several years, beaten down by small town social mores, unsafe mining conditions, and the economic collapse of their town. And yet their valley was so green, you could even see it in black and white; the love and spirit endured. Continue Reading →

Eye on Mining: Exclusive interview with PolyMet CEO and President – by Staff (CBS 3 Duluth – January 29, 2019)

CBS 3 Duluth.com

HOYT LAKES, MN — After nearly 15 years and thousands of public comments PolyMet is making preparations to start construction on Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine.

“During this upcoming construction season we’ll be in a position to be ready to begin the project,” said Jon Cherry, President and CEO of PolyMet. “2019 should be when we break ground and get going.”

Cherry has been at the forefront of this project for the last six and a half years and he said it hasn’t been without obstacles. “The challenge has been the length of time that it’s taken to get to this point.” PolyMet began the initial environmental review back in 2004. Continue Reading →