Eagle Mine's community involvement on display for Minnesota Governor's visit

November 2, 2015

Days after seeing the effects of what can go wrong because of a mining operation, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton saw what can go right for a community because of a mining operation when he visited Lundin Mining’s Eagle Mine in Michigan.

In addition to witnessing a modern mining project that operates in an environmentally and financially sound manner, Dayton learned how the Eagle Mine handles it social responsibility.

The mine engages its Upper Peninsula neighbors in many ways including holding regular public meetings, with no time limits, as well as giving regular public tours and staffing a storefront mine display in downtown Marquette, MI. Dayton visited a South Dakota mine he said was an example of what could wrong as well as the Eagle Mine to get a better understanding of mining as he considers how to proceed on PolyMet’s proposed Iron Range Mine in Minnesota.

After his visit to the Eagle Mine, Dayton urged PolyMet to communicate with stakeholders in the same away.

The Duluth News Tribune reported that Minnesota Pollution Control Commissioner John Linc Stine, who accompanied Dayton to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, said a community group provides independent scientific environmental emissions monitoring near the mine. That is in addition to the company and state taking similar readings, which he and Dayton said gives the community more confidence than if only the company and state did the work.

“I would certainly insist that (PolyMet) meet those standards and more,” the governor said shortly after his airplane landed in St. Paul, adding that he is confident the company will do that. “They recognize this is crucial for the public to accept what they are doing.”

PolyMet’s Bruce Richardson said the company already is active in the Hoyt Lakes and nearby communities.

“We would deal with it much like they have,” he said about Eagle. “It is quite standard in the mining industry with good mining companies and good mining operations. We are already involved in the community and want to be a good neighbor.”

PolyMet has about 20 employees in the Hoyt Lakes area doing environmental work related to state permits they are requesting and to maintain facilities already on land where the mine would be.

The Eagle Mine was suggested for a Dayton trip by PolyMet supporters as an example of a responsible mine, even though critics of the Michigan operation remain vocal.

Besides things like environmental monitoring and community involvement, Minnesota officials were impressed with Michigan's efforts to ensure there will be enough money in the bank for any cleanup needed once the mine closes.

Eagle is much smaller than the proposed PolyMet mine, so the $60 million it set aside is a pittance compared to what PolyMet will need. Landwehr said PolyMet would be required to set aside “hundreds of millions of dollars” for cleanup, with the specific amount decided during the permitting process and updated annually.

Landwehr said a 3,000-page Environmental Impact Statement will be released in the first half of November. Then, Dayton said, he will begin to meet with small groups to help him form his opinion about whether PolyMet should receive a mining permit.

It could be 2017 before a permit is issued, and even then a likely court challenge would delay the start of mining.

 

 

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