An open letter from the Downstream Business Coalition

We are a growing group of nearly 80 small businesses in the North, representing a cross-section of industries including technology, manufacturing, service, entertainment, and the trades. We employ nearly 1000 people and we are continuing to succeed and invest, adding jobs and dollars to our economy. Our businesses depend on the health of the Lake Superior watershed.

For those of us in the over 17,000 job, $800 million annual tourist and outdoor industries of Northeast Minnesota,[1] the water draws our customers. The St. Louis River, Boundary Waters and Lake Superior have become great attractions for our region, and others and we have built a foundation for an entire tourist economy.  For all our regions businesses, healthy water and vibrant outdoor access have enabled us to recruit and retain skilled employees. The economy of the North overall depends in on the unparalleled quality of life the clean water provides.  For several of our businesses, water is our raw material and our brand. Those of us in the beverage manufacturing industry have located our businesses in the watershed specifically for access to the pristine water of Lake Superior.

We are pro responsible mining and pro jobs. We support and benefit from ferrous mining, which originally built the economy and culture of the North.  We rely on mined products in our businesses.  As primarily owner-operators, we are pro worker and pro quality of life, and we have and will continue to rely on union labor as we expand our facilities.

But because we are so dependent on the health of our water, we are concerned about copper-nickel mining. The proposed PolyMet NorthMet copper-nickel mine, and others like it, are vastly different from ferrous mining, and have the potential to spread toxic metals throughout our watershed. In copper-nickel mining, water that passes through the site leaches toxic metals, including mercury, from the metallic sulfide ore. According to the NorthMet Environmental Impact Study (EIS), this pollution will continue for a “minimum of 200 years at the Mine Site and a minimum of 500 years at the Plant Site,” requiring treatment “indefinitely”.[2],[3] Flow path maps in the EIS show that the plume of contamination will reach the Partridge and Embarrass Rivers, which flow to the St. Louis River and ultimately Lake Superior.[4]

Risk to the watershed is risk to the entire regional economy.

We trust that PolyMet intends to meet all applicable regulations, but our concerns are based on the track record of similar projects. We welcome them to show us one metallic sulfide mine of this type that has operated for 10 years and been closed for 10 years without exceeding government pollution standards. Indeed, under Wisconsin’s ‘Prove It First’ law, no such example has yet been identified. Like the rest of the resources we rely on, we want mining to continue to become more technologically advanced and more environmentally friendly. But until the technology is proven, we simply don't believe the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the place for a test case.

There is an alternative to the boom and bust extraction economy that benefits foreign corporations and leaves local communities worse off in the end. Our locally owned small businesses are proof positive that a more sustainable model is possible. We will continue to reinvest the wealth we create into new jobs over the next 20 years. We call on Governor Dayton to reject the PolyMet proposal for the reasons above, and instead invest that state money in sustainable local small business development on the Range. This investment has the potential to make a larger and far longer-term impact than the proposed copper-nickel mining project.

Become a member of the coalition and read our full statement at www.DownstreamBusinessCoalition.org.

[1] Tourism and Minnesota’s Economy, 2015, Explore Minnesota
2 PFEIS (Preliminary Final Impact Statement, NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service, June 2015, pp. ES-26 and 5-8.
3 Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange, Appendix C, November 2013, p. 12
4 PFEIS, Figures 5.2.2-7 and 5.2.2-9

 


WHO'S INVOLVED?

See our members page for a list of businesses involved. MEMBERS

1 PFEIS (Preliminary Final Impact Statement, NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service, June 2015, pp. ES-26 and 5-8.
2 Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange, Appendix C, November 2013, p. 12
3 PFEIS, Figures 5.2.2-7 and 5.2.2-9