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The mine could reap an estimated $10 billion in revenue over 20 years. However, the winning essay found that the economic gains could be offset by environmental damage from mine drainage, sulfuric acid and toxic metals, in addition to a decrease in lake home real estate values that could follow these hazards.
“Similar sulfide mines all across the world have yielded severe and long-lasting contamination in the area around the mines,” the essay reported. “PolyMet’s proposed mine, however, is an even larger concern than past mines because the mine and processing facility would be located on the St. Louis River basin,” which connects miles of wetlands, floodplains and lakes in the region.
The student essay raised concerns about PolyMet’s commitment to environmental containment and remediation, given the history of a mining industry that often has left messes to be cleaned up at taxpayer expense.
Besides, the students concluded, as outside directors they have a higher obligation to the tourism industry, Minnesota environmental law and the next generation.
In March, after four years and $22 million, PolyMet cleared a major hurdle when the EPA gave the project’s plans a passing grade, with reservations and requests for more analysis.
The state is still working on an environmental study that could push a decision into next year.
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • firstname.lastname@example.org