Lawmakers, environmental groups announce "Prove it First" bill |

Lawmakers, environmental groups announce "Prove it First" bill

Updated: January 13, 2021 06:31 PM
Created: January 13, 2021 11:09 AM

Opponents to copper-nickel mining in Minnesota have announced they plan to introduce a bill on Thursday called "Prove it First." 

It would require scientific proof before any copper-nickel mine could be permitted. Specifically, the proof would be that a similar mine has operated elsewhere in the United States for at least 10 years, and has been closed for at least 10 years, without causing pollution.

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, MN Center for Environmental Advocacy, WaterLegacy, Sierra Club, and Duluth for Clean Water are all part of the effort.

So is the new state senator from Duluth, Jen McEwen, along with other state lawmakers. "I'm proud to be a lead author on this legislation," she said. "We are not willing to be a test case for a bunch of super wealthy, billionaire corporations, who want to come in and do these experimental projects that put our economy and our public health at risk. We are going to insist they prove it first."

The group said this is based on a law that passed with bipartisan support in Wisconsin.

PolyMet already has been fully permitted for their project, although some have been suspended by the courts. The company plans to mine near Babbitt, and process at the former LTV site in Hoyt Lakes.

They sent a statement, saying, "If you want to have iPhones and tablets, and metals to provide renewable energy and various other critical products such as wind turbines and solar arrays, you have to be able to mine the metals that make it possible. This legislation is ill-advised and completely unnecessary. PolyMet completed the most comprehensive, science-based environmental review and permitting process in the state’s history. We should be mining for copper, nickel, cobalt and other metals needed to build a green economy right here in Minnesota, where we have the most stringent environmental standards in the world, while bringing much needed jobs and economic diversity and prosperity to the Iron Range and the state."

Twin Metals has started the environmental review process with the state. They plan to mine near Ely and Babbitt, and have an office in Ely. They sent a statement, saying, "“We already have prove it first in Minnesota. It’s called the regulatory process. The geology, hydrology, mining methods and site-specific details vary for each project, and we need to trust our agencies and institutions to consistently evaluate each one based on science and fact. Twin Metals Minnesota has spent more than a decade developing its proposed copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mine, which is now under review. We will have to prove we can meet the standards in place before earning permits to mine. This is the right process to evaluate projects – we should no more have blanket approvals of projects than blanket denials.”

Jobs for Minnesotans released the following statement in response that reads, in part, “This bill is not an attempt to strengthen the regulatory process, it’s simply an attempt to kill the mining industry in Minnesota and issue a blanket denial to projects that ultimately are essential to the future transition to green energy sources. Those backing this legislation ignore the fact that there have been non-ferrous mines that have opened, operated and closed in similar climates that have successfully protected the environment and remain in compliance in our country. Look to the Flambeau mine in Wisconsin and the Eagle mine in Michigan." 

Nancy Norr, the chair of the Jobs for Minnesotans, added, "We have had successful non-ferrous mines operating in the upper Midwest. And we have one operating now, the Eagle Mine. I've personally visited that mine, after it opened. It started in 2014, and continues to be in compliance with all of its permits."

She went on to say, "Our message is consistent. Follow the established regulatory process. Hold these projects to a high standard. They do need to prove it, through the permitting process."

And MiningMinnesota sent over a statement as well, that reads, in part, "This approach by the anti-mining groups is not new. They tried it in Wisconsin. Wisconsin demonstrated they can successfully operate, close, and reclaim a copper nickel mine. As a result, Wisconsin repealed their terrible law. Make no mistake, this is legislation designed to kill a way of life. The bill is unnecessary. It does nothing to improve the environment. Its only purpose is to stop this industry from providing needed domestic sources of critical metals before it gets started. It also chases investment away from Minnesota."

The environmental groups say the have 16 Democrats who support the bill, but no Republicans.

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