Created: 02/11/2014 5:14 PM WDIO.com
By: Renee Passal
Minnesota legislators learned more about planned financial assurances for possible cleanup and reclamation of the Polymet mine project at a hearing Tuesday.
In the 1990s, lawmakers created financial assurance requirements holding companies responsible for cleanup and reclamation costs. Supporters of the project say, "trust the system." Opponents are skeptical.
In front of a packed hearing room, the DNR started the House Environment Committee hearing with an explanation of what the agency will mandate before any permits are issued. Jess Richards, director of the DNR's Division of Lands and Minerals Contacts, answered 16 pre-written questions and said they are doing their homework.
"The DNR has access to over 200 mine sites in the western United States. In addition, we are also reviewing financial assurance from across the nation," Richardson said.
He said a trust funds, managed by multiple banks or even the state, are a potential idea.
Some lawmakers seemed skeptical about DNR's answers and data.
"I haven't heard any set aside of money for what happens if something happens to this resource that is going to become more valued," said Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis), the chair of the committee.
Others, like Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake), seemed satisfied with the DNR's answers.
Polymet plans to mine copper nickel and other precious metals near Babbitt and then process them in Hoyt Lakes at the site of the old LTV plant. Potential cleanup costs have not been nailed down yet, but officials acknowledge it could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The final numbers will be decided once Polymet applies for their permits.
After the DNR, there was time for more than a dozen people to speak about the issue. People from the Northland and the Twin Cities spoke on both sides of the issue. Evironmentalists say they don't want the taxpayer saddled with the costs.
"Our big concern is that there are too many unknowns regarding the mine itself to really know what the true costs are to the taxpayer," said Luther Dale of the Sierra Club.
But mining advocates say financial assurance works.
"The states and the federal government require annual reviews of financial assurance to make sure the amounts are correct. Anytime there's a modification of a plan of operation, they recalculate the financial assurance," said Laura Skaer with American Exploration and Mining.
No legislation has been introduced in St. Paul about the project. That promped one member of the committee to sharply question the point of the hearing.
Minnesota Woman Injured in Pine County Crash
The Minnesota State Patrol says a 44-year-old Rush City woman was injured when her car went into a ditch on northbound I-35 in Pine County. She was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Couple Working in Guinea Shares Experiences While in Northland
A couple working in West Africa visited the Northland this week. They were in Guinea when the Ebola virus first started to spread. Jon Erickson and his wife Anja operate the Hope Medical Center in the southeastern part of Guinea.
Duluth Indigenous Commission Forum and Feast
A feast and forum brought the Duluth community and Duluth Indigenous Commission together on Wednesday. Along with food, this forum provided the opportunity for the community to meet and gain an understanding of the role and function of this commission.
Firefighters Battle Virginia Apartment Building Blaze
An apartment building in Virginia was the scene of a fire Wednesday afternoon. It happened on Third Avenue North at around 2:30 p.m. Firefighters arrived on scene to find a fire in one of the ten apartments.
Teachers on the Range Prepare for Back to School
More than 600 educators across the Range gathered in Virginia on Wednesday, to share advice and experiences.