The June 10 editorial “Mining near BWCA is risky business” expressed concern about recent information released by Twin Metals Minnesota regarding the underground copper-nickel mining project in northeastern Minnesota that the company is designing. Twin Metals recognizes environmental protection and conservation as a core value. It’s only natural. After all, we live here, grew up here and have family here. And that is why we are designing a project proposal that will meet all state and federal environmental laws and protective standards.
Twin Metals also agrees with the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s call for “agencies to conduct a rigorous, technology-driven and independent analysis” of the proposal. The federal environmental-impact statement (EIS) process that has been in place since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 requires agencies to do exactly that. A similar state program has been in use since the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act was passed in 1973. These processes rely on rigorous review of detailed project engineering plans and site-specific, empirical environmental data. These are processes citizens can trust.
According to multiple surveys, including most recently from the mining industry association MiningMinnesota, the vast majority of Minnesota voters do. More than that, they show that most Minnesotans believe that copper-nickel mining projects should be allowed the opportunity to be proposed and undergo EIS review.
Voters will have the opportunity to reaffirm this viewpoint in the 2018 election. In line with the editorial, we, too, hope to see the election of leaders who “are committed to a state review process that is fair, expert and thorough,” with the “backbone to stand up to special interests wielding political pressure either for or against the project.”
This backbone must include strength to stand up to the uninformed efforts by some organizations to block the Twin Metals project from ever being proposed or reviewed by state and federal agencies through the rigorous EIS process. All Minnesotans should reject such tactics — last-minute federal land withdrawals, improper cancellations of government-issued minerals leases, endless litigation and more.
We recognize that a project like ours, which would bring long-term job opportunities and economic development to the state, is a large undertaking. We agree with the editorial that our leaders should devote adequate resources to shepherd the EIS process through a predictable timetable that adequately incorporates feedback from stakeholders.
Every aspect of the Twin Metals project — including facility locations, operations, water management, air quality, noise and socioeconomics — will be evaluated during the EIS process. The EIS process will provide regulators and the public a comprehensive information package on which to evaluate the merits of the proposal. The process will offer multiple mandatory forums for public input. At the end of the day, the Twin Metals project must meet or exceed rigorous state and federal environmental regulations, or it will not be allowed to move forward.
That is the challenge, and the opportunity, that Twin Metals is willing to tackle. Why? Because we have confidence in the well-established EIS process and the expertise of our highly capable public agencies. We trust the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do their jobs thoroughly, rigorously and independently. Readers of the Star Tribune should as well.
Anne Williamson is vice president of environment and sustainability for Twin Metals Minnesota.