The PolyMet environmental impact statement which has been discussed around Minnesota the past couple months is based on bad data, the Timberjay newspaper reported this week (Star Tribune story here). It significantly underestimates the amount of water flowing through the mine area, which means big parts of the document are likely incorrect, and might mean another year of work and a third draft of the study is needed.
You could almost hear heads spinning across the state at the news that this long-awaited second version of the company's environmental impact statement is seriously flawed.
PolyMet can't get its impact study right in two attempts and millions of dollars, but the company says it will get essential environmental protection right on the first try. There is no margin for error with mining pollution – one mistake and contaminants could flow from into nearby lakes, rivers and wetlands.
Once pollution reaches water, it's almost impossible to contain it. Folks in Charleston, West Virginia, have been dealing with water that is dirty and smelly and of questionable safety after a chemical spill upriver on January 9th.
In Grantsburg, Wisconsin in 2012, a sand mining company incorrectly built a wall around a holding pond and ended up dumping harmful sediment into the St. Croix River for five days.
There are few second chances with mining mistakes. Preventing pollution means doing it right the first time and every time.
The latest news about PolyMet must be a shock to everyone following the issue. Whether an Iron Ranger looking for a job, a resident worried about their drinking water, wild rice or fishing lake, or an investor at big PolyMet investor Glencore, it is universally hard to believe that after all this waiting, we might need to wait again.
But they say the third time's the charm.