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Big Crowd Weighs In On PolyMet Project in Aurora

Updated: 01/22/2014 11:09 PM
Created: 01/22/2014 11:04 PM WDIO.com
By: Laurie Stribling
lstribling@wdio.com

Public comment on the PolyMet mining project got underway Wednesday in the heart of where the mine would be.

The second of three meetings was held at Mesabi East Schools in Aurora. About 1,000 people showed up for the public meeting to share their opinions.

About 170 people signed up to speak during the three-hour public comment period. Names were drawn at random and each person was given three minutes to talk.

"It's time to do this project right; it's time to do this project now; it's time to do this project here," Hoyt Lakes Mayor Mark Skelton said.

"There are some significant flaws in the science in which the EIS is based," Paul Schurke, of Ely, said.

Emotions run high when it comes to the project. It would be the first copper-nickel mine in Minnesota.

"I think it's a crazy time to think about things like copper-nickel mining when we can damage our water environment," Sally Munger, of Duluth, said.

"My concern is the area," Benjamin Pratt, of Biwabik, said. "The prosperity of the guys coming out of high school."

While people both in support and opposition of the project were at the meeting, a large majority of people wore stickers in support of mining and the jobs it creates.

"PolyMet would not be a silver bullet, but would be an opportunity for those of us in northern Minnesota to strive to earn a living like those in the rest of the state," Jim Hoolihan, of Grand Rapids, said.

"I'm concerned that the accumulative impacts of the PolyMet project and the other existing and expanding mines would impair wild rice, fish and aquatic ecosystems," Susan Schurke, of Ely, said.

Even the youngest Iron Rangers were weighing in Wednesday.

"When I grow up, where would I find a mine if they start shutting them down?" Louis Meskill, of Ely, said. "My dad and grandpa and great grandpa are miners."

The third and final hearing will be Tuesday in Saint Paul.

The deadline to submit comments is March 13.

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