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Star Tribune business columnist Neal St. Anthony's report on the proposed Talon mine in northern Minnesota ("Minnesota's mining push buoyed by new climate-change law," Aug. 23) requires further examination.

"The recently passed federal Inflation Reduction Act provides billions in incentives to accelerate America's transition to a lower-carbon, renewable energy-powered economy," St. Anthony notes, before addressing the pros and cons of such an operation in Anishinaabe lands.

Specifically, the Minnewawa and the Sandy Lake Flowage are two of the richest wild rice territories in northern Minnesota, and are also rich in Anishinaabe ancient history, including those who perished here. More than 400 Anishinaabe starved to death as a part of America's genocide against the Ojibwe in the winter of l850. Today Talon is a new but related threat.

Talon Mining, a junior (exploration) mining corporation from Canada, is after nickel and cobalt, allegedly for the electric car market. Framed as "green mining," such a project, in reality, pits the people and water against renewable energy. The fact is that these minerals the companies pursue may be obsolete in the battery market by the time this mine would be operational.

If built, the mine could also lay waste to the Sandy Lake Watershed, inundating it with sulfuric acid, sucking down the lake levels like those on shallow Lake Minnewawa, and contaminating the rich waters of the l855 treaty territory in Aitkin County.

Worldwide, junior Canadian mining corporations have the worst human rights and environmental records. Talon, with its big backer, Rio Tinto, has leased or purchased over 90,000 acres in the heart of the l855 treaty territory and the East Lake and Sandy Lake communities. Talon estimates it will need to pump between 1.1 and l.6 million gallons of water a day out of the wetlands. Those waters recharge the shallow lakes, and neither the company, nor Minnesota's DNR, have any idea of the impact of such a mine on Big Sandy and Minnewawa.

Nor does anyone have a plan about the potential of l,800 gallons a minute of mine seepage water, and how that would impact the shallow aquifer in these communities.

Rio Tinto is also one of the most controversial mining corporations in the world. Talon holds the majority of shares (51%) and is the lead public face of the project, and in effect, an exploratory and marketing company with no experience in mining, nor in cleanup. Rio Tinto is not known for cleaning up its messes either.

Witness the Panguna mine in Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, and the war the company lost against the Indigenous Melanesian people. Panguna was previously one of the world's largest copper and gold mines, providing $2 billion for Rio Tinto and the government until 1989 when an uprising against the environmental destruction and inequities forced the mine's closure and triggered a brutal decadelong civil war. Some 10,000 people died.

A long-term plan for remediation was laid out by the government. Conveniently in 2014, Rio Tinto divested from the mine before the plan could be implemented, thus avoiding cleanup costs. Today the Panguna area is a toxic disaster site, its rivers and creeks choked with mine waste, its native kids sick from tailing mounds pollution.

As St. Anthony indicates, Talon is all about batteries and battery storage for renewable energy and the growing electric car industry. The fact is that lithium/nickel batteries are sort of last year's technology. The next generation of batteries will be on the market before Talon and their expensive project is even producing ore.

New batteries could be made of hemp, recycled battery materials, or sodium ion batteries, all of which are much less destructive than trading an ecosystem to a junior Canadian mining corporation. Besides sequestering carbon at a very high level, hemp makes an excellent graphene for batteries. Its waste fibers can be transformed into "ultrafast" supercapacitors that are better than graphene, a synthetic carbon material lighter than foil yet bulletproof, but prohibitively expensive to make. The hemp version isn't simply better, it performs better and costs one-thousandth of the price.

Other materials substitutions can eliminate ecologically destructive "green mining" by using less destructive components. "Replacing lithium and cobalt in lithium-ion batteries would result in a more environmentally and socially conscious technology," according to a new report issued by the National Science Foundation. Researchers have developed a sodium-based battery material that is stable, recharges as fast as a traditional lithium-ion battery, and has the potential for a higher energy output than current lithium-ion battery technologies.

Today, the battery recycling industry is taking off, primarily in Europe, dispelling the belief that recycled material is not as good as virgin material: Battery Resources is already selling its recycled materials to battery manufacturers, and, after raising $70 million, is expanding while currently processing 10,000 tons of batteries. That's the kind of investment we need in Minnesota — solving the toxic waste problem and creating energy storage in one fell swoop. That is the definition of sustainability.

Anishinaabe prophecies speak of this time as one where we will need to choose between a green path and a scorched path. That's where Minnesota and the Anishinaabeg find ourselves. The Talon mine in Indian Country is even more dangerous than some of the more recent threats like Line 3 — not only for the water and the tribes, but for Minnesota. The state could be a leader in the next renewable energy economy, if we choose the green path.

Winona LaDuke is an environmental activist, two-time Green Party candidate for vice president and executive director of Honor the Earth. Her latest book is "To Be A Water Protector: The Rise of the Wiindigo Slayers."