In yet another attempt to delay the environmental review process for the proposed Twin Metals Minnesota project, former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr is in the Star Tribune attacking the state’s mining rules that he once was in charge of enforcing (“Minnesota must act to save BWCA,” Opinion Exchange, July 7).
He is doing this to try to stop the process that will thoroughly examine all aspects of the proposed Twin Metals mine to determine if the project can move forward. His solution is to sue the Minnesota DNR — the agency he once led — to force it to rewrite the rules to prohibit copper-nickel mining in the Rainy River Watershed.
Landwehr fully understands the rigorous environmental review process that Twin Metals is entering under the DNR. He knows that the process is designed to protect the air, water, endangered species and cultural resources of our state. He fully understands that no mine will be permitted in Minnesota unless it survives the rigorous multiyear evaluation that will determine if the project protects any surrounding watershed.
As commissioner, Landwehr himself oversaw the application of the nonferrous mining rules to the evaluation of the PolyMet project. That project earned its air and water quality permits under his leadership. In other words, Landwehr agreed that the nonferrous mining rules were strong enough to protect the watershed of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.
I suspect the reason Landwehr wants to change the rules for the specific geography where Twin Metals plans to locate is because he believes the Twin Metals project will demonstrate that it will meet or exceed the rigorous environmental standards set by the state.
Minnesota is already acting to protect not only the Rainy River Watershed — but all of the watersheds in the state.
Minnesota’s environmental protection standards and rules — including the nonferrous mining rules — were developed over years with significant leadership and expertise from all stakeholders, including our state’s leading environmental protection organizations. The rules developed are among the most rigorous state environmental protection rules in the nation. They have done an excellent job keeping Minnesota’s air and water clean.
The environmental review process that Twin Metals is about to embark on is designed to test the project against these rules and determine if it can be built and operated while protecting the surrounding environment. If the mine plan fails that test, state permits will not be granted, and the project will not be built. If all protections are met, the project should move forward and should be permitted.
Twin Metals Minnesota clearly believes it has designed a project that will preserve the clean water and air of the Rainy River Watershed. But nobody has to believe Twin Metals. The state will determine the fate of the project through the thorough, science-based environmental review process outlined in current Minnesota law.
Frank Ongaro is executive director of MiningMinnesota.