Twin Metals: No Tailings Dam Planned

Renee Passal
Updated: July 19, 2019 02:13 PM

Twin Metals announced Thursday that they are planning on using the dry stack method to store their leftover tailings. That means they won't need a storage pond or dam that are associated with conventional tailings facilities. 


Dean DeBeltz, Director of Operations and Safety, said, "We are really excited about this announcement. It's been heralded as the gold-standard for tailings deposition. We took a lot of things into consideration. We heard voices from the community, and looked at the advances in technology. We can do this and do it right, and now is the time to step up and do it."

Here's how it works: Tailings, which are leftover from mining, will be compressed into low-moisture, sand-like deposits. They'll be stored on a lined ground facility near the plant site. 

In a statement, Twin Metals CEO Kelly Osborne said, "Dry stacking tailings storage is the most environmentally friendly tailings management approach for our site. The first key is that there's no dam, no risk of dam failure. It's considered the best available technology for tailings storage."

He went on to say, "After a decade of study and consultation with concerned voices in our community, we determined that it will be an effective choice for our project." It has proven successful in other cold, wet climates, per the company, and that's why they decided it's the best available option.

There has been plenty of concern from environmental groups about the project's proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildreness. The plan is to build an underground mine near Ely and Babbitt.

The group Save the Boundary Waters says the proposed mine poses an unacceptable risk to the BWCA. Becky Rom, the national chair of the campaign said, "The idea of promoting the technology of dry stacking is like putting lipstick on a pig," she said from the Sustainable Ely office. She believse the tailings will still be toxic. She also believes the proposal to put the tailings area near the plant site will put it in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. "This is worse."

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy issued this about the news. "Dry stacking of mine tailings is preferable to storing mine waste and polluted water behind a dam, though it alone does not make a mine proposal "environmentally friendly."

On the other side, Jobs for Minnesotans shared this: "Today's Twin Metals Minnesota announcement of its plan to use a dry stack tailings storage method is an example of what responsible companies do – listen to and consider the counsel provided by regulators, tribes, communities, industry and organizations like ours, configuring their projects to accomplish both environmental protection and economic feasibility."

Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters said, "This is not an improvement. No safeguard from this type of mining would prevent pollution or negative impacts on the fish and wildlife of the BWCA or on the small businesses that depend on it. This project still presents an unacceptable risk to the Boundary Waters, our outdoor traditions and future generations who will benefit from this one of a kind place."


Renee Passal

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