DULUTH — After northern Minnesota legislators initially withheld a $250,000 grant for a Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa water treatment project over the band's perceived "anti-mining" stance, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Commissioner Mark Phillips approved the money Thursday.
"After gathering additional information from our funding partners, I am pleased to move forward with this important infrastructure project to provide clean drinking water for the residents of Mahnomen and Brookston," Phillips said in a statement. "The project meets our program guidelines and aligns with our mission and vision to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota."
At the board's meeting earlier this month, Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he was "uncomfortable" with using taconite taxes to pay for the project since the band has publicly opposed copper-nickel mining and has challenged a permit for Minntac's mining waste.
The band responded with a statement saying it is not anti-mining but "anti-pollution."
"Mining, the way it currently operates and is regulated in Minnesota, has destroyed wild rice, worsened the mercury in fish problem, and fundamentally destroyed and degraded thousands of acres of important natural and cultural resources in the 1854 Ceded Territory over the past century."
The grant will go toward a $1.3 million water tower, the first phase of a $12 million water treatment system to serve Mahnomen and Brookston.