Approximately 12 miles south of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the site of the proposed PolyMet mine.

This toxic mine would produce millions of tons of waste rock, loaded with acid mine drainage containing carcinogens and heavy metals such as lead and mercury. This pollution would poison the St. Louis River, flow downstream into Lake Superior and harm residents of Duluth and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Owned by Glencore, the notorious Swiss mining and commodities giant, this mine has been marked by corruption and wrongdoing. In an attempt to push through a cheap and outdated mine plan that is designed to pollute, the Swiss owners have introduced new levels of corruption into Minnesota.

In addition to threatening clean water and people, PolyMet Mining would act as a snowplow that would clear the way for future copper-sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters and in Minnesota.

Aerial shot of a Polymet mine.

7 reasons to be alarmed by PolyMet

Designed to pollute our clean water. According to PolyMet’s best case scenario, the mine would release 16 million gallons of polluted water into the ground water each year. This would seep into the headwaters of the St. Louis River and flow downstream, contaminating the waters supply for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the city of Duluth and ultimately, Lake Superior.

A dam problem. To cut costs, PolyMet Mining has proposed building a 250-foot tall dam to store 225 million tons of reactive mine waste. The same type of dam, designed by the same dam engineer, collapsed in Brumadinho Brazil, killing over 200 people. This type of dam construction has since been banned in Brazil. But for some reason this kind of risky engineering is safe enough for Minnesota?

A climate change disaster. High levels of CO2 emissions from PolyMet would exacerbate the global climate crisis. The proposed mine would also involve the largest permitted destruction of peat and marshland in Minnesota’s history, destroying one of the world’s most effective carbon sinks.

Dump Trucks working on a Polymet Mining site.

Corrupt owners. PolyMet Mining is controlled by the Glencore, a Swiss conglomerate with a long history of labor abuse, environmental degradation, bribery, corruption and unlawful actions. The United Steel Workers have called Glencore “one of the most irresponsible companies on the planet.”

Taxpayers pay for cleanup. PolyMet Mining has designed its financial assurance package in a way that allows their investors to be paid first, while leaving Minnesota taxpayers on the hook to pay to clean up the pollution.

Anti-Science and Collusion. Shortly after PolyMet received its final permit, it was revealed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) along with higher ups at the EPA attempted to suppress concerns that the wastewater permit would allow PolyMet to violate the Clean Water Act.

A lousy permit. Despite the many red flags raised by scientists, engineers, financial experts and the public, Minnesota DNR issued the final state permit for PolyMet. A little over a year later the Minnesota Court of Appeals, threw out the Permit to Mine and two of the dam-safety permits, citing “serious, justifiable concerns.” Right now, PolyMet cannot put a shovel in the ground, but the battle is far from over.

Image showing the harmful affects that Polymet Mining has on the Boundary Waters

In addition to multiple lawsuits combatting this dangerous mine, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has introduced a Prove It First bill into the Minnesota legislature that would stop PolyMet and Twin Metals in its tracks. 

This common-sense piece of legislation would require that before a copper-sulfide mine could be permitted in Minnesota, there must be independent proof that a similar mine has operated for at least ten years without causing pollution and that a mine has been closed for at least ten years without causing pollution. 

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