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Minnesota Mining Proposal Drawing Flack

January 25, 2008

St. Paul, MN – State lawmakers will hold a hearing today to consider bids by two Canadian companies to mine for precious metals in Minnesota, and the request for permits is drawing opposition. Clyde Hanson with the Sierra Club says it wouldn't be a "traditional" mining operation.

"It's mining for copper or nickel in sulfide rock, and it's quite risky. It's not like taconite mining that Minnesotans might be more familiar with."

He says it's much more dangerous to the environment because, once exposed to air and water, the rock produces sulfuric acid that can drain into rivers, lakes and ground water. He says it can also kill wildlife.

Hanson says metallic sulfide mining has never been done in Minnesota, and it comes with a price.

"The toxic metals and the acids kill those small critters in our lakes and streams that fish need to survive. They would also make the streams too dirty to be used in industrial purposes. They also speed up the release of mercury in the fish tissues, so the walleye we eat would be less safe."

Hanson says there are about five proposed mining sites between Hoyt Lake and Ely, near the Boundary Waters, but all Minnesotans have a stake in the outcome.

"This mining country is certainly in places we all love to visit and enjoy. The wildlife, the waters, belong to everyone. They're our shared assets as citizens, and we're all on the hook for the cleanup costs if these companies go bankrupt and the assurance bonds are not significant enough to cover these long-term expenses. I mean, long, long term. Like generations and generations of people having to treat water, drill wells, pump it out, clean it, and put it back. The cleanup costs can be boggling."

Hanson says the economic impact of the project would be minimal – the area is moving away from reliance on mining jobs and working to diversify its job market.

Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MN