Why I Oppose Sulfide Mining in Minnesota

My name is Gaelynn Lea. I am a musician and I am proud to call Duluth home. Two of my bands, Snöbarn and The Murder of Crows, recorded tracks for the Arrowhead Story – an album created to raise awareness about the risks of Sulfide Mining. I am against the proposed PolyMet mine for many reasons. Of course, some of my opposition stems from my spirituality – I believe that humans are supposed to protect, not destroy, the Earth that God gave us. I also believe that it is our duty to alleviate suffering whenever possible, in this case, suffering from the future harm and disease caused by toxins that will almost certainly be released by this proposed PolyMet mine.

But there are other reasons to oppose Sulfide Mining, even if one is not of a religious background.

First, it just seems like a bad business deal: We loan PolyMet our land for 20 years, less than one generation’s time, and they will leave it polluted for 500 years? That means over 16 generations of future Minnesotans would be affected by pollution caused by the PolyMet Mine! If I tried to get a business loan and said I’d have it paid back in a speedy 500 years, I’d be laughed out of the loan office. Why are we even considering this mine as a plausible business idea?

And that is if everything goes RIGHT. What if something goes wrong and we end up facing much more pollution than we were told to expect? I just can’t trust a for-profit company to honestly have the environment’s best interest in mind; ultimately it’s about the bottom line, it has to be. So even if PolyMet tells me that this mine will have the newest safeguards in place, creating minimal damage to the environment, I still hesitate to believe them. And it appears to be for good reason:

For example, one study found that, among modern mines in the US that predicted that no acid mine drainage would occur, 89% of those mines DID have acid mine drainage during operations or after closure.

And just in case it’s not clear, there are many reasons to fear acid mine drainage: acid mine drainage kills fish, wildlife and plants, leaving contaminated waterways devoid of most living creatures. Mining by-products such as arsenic, manganese and thallium, have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other illnesses in humans. Make no mistake, there WILL be disease created by this mine. Are profits really worth anything if they’re at the expense of human life?

And, if 500 years of pollution somehow doesn’t bother you, maybe the costs to the taxpayers will: Experts who have studied other mining projects across the country said even those that start with financial safeguards can end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars. In Montana, they underestimated the volume of water needing treatment after a gold mine had closed, and state taxpayers had to create a $34 million trust fund to pay for it. Northern Minnesota cannot afford a miscalculation of that magnitude.

Another study says that water treatment would cost between $3.5 and $6 million per year after the mine closes. Northern Minnesota cannot afford to foot that bill. Not for one year, not for 500 years.

There are other, safer, better ways to grow our economy. For example, Maurices is soon expanding its corporate office, and they’re slotted to create 600 jobs right here in Duluth. PolyMet will only create 360 full-time jobs, with HUGE liabilities attached. Let’s focus on industries with less risk and more jobs.

I vote as conscientiously as I can, I live as conscientiously as I can. My household, and my friends, regularly take actions to preserve the earth and our own health. And now a FOR-PROFIT company is hoping to come in and risk my health and the planet’s vital water supply… all for money I will never see? Where is the political, social, or moral justice in that? Will no one fight to protect our rights to live as healthily as we can? Well, I will fight for a healthier tomorrow, and I hope that all citizens of Minnesota, especially those with the most power, will stand up and oppose this dangerous, damaging operation. The risks are just too high to bring Sulfide Mining to Minnesota.

Gaelynn Lea

P.S. Public comment on the PolyMet Mine is open until March 13, 2014… If you prepare a written comment, you should email it to: NorthMetSDEIS.dnr@state.mn.us. E-mail submissions must include a full name and legal mailing address.

P.P.S. Still have questions? Learn more about the impact of the proposed PolyMet Mine at Mining Truth (www.miningtruth.org) & DNR (http://dnr.state.mn.us/input/environmentalreview/polymet).

Author: violinscratches

Gaelynn Lea is a musician and public speaker from Duluth, MN. She is passionate about disability advocacy, personal growth, and authentic living. She was the winner of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest in March 2016.