A group of Minnesota state legislators has joined with environmental groups to support a new level of protection for lakes and rivers in the northeast part of the state that mandates proof of environmental "safety" relative to new mining operations. This legislation would require mining companies to show a mine that has not polluted elsewhere before receiving a permit in Minnesota.
The rationale for this legislative effort is summarized by the 5 points listed below - taken from the first reference listed in the References section of this page.
Metal mining is most polluting industry in the United States. According to the EPA, 44% of all industrial pollution in the United States comes from metal mining. On a global level, researchers in the journal Nature estimate that mining for primary metal and mineral production accounts for approximately 10% of the total global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Minnesota has no effective way to regulate sulfide mining. Minnesota has a rich history of iron mining, however, there has never been a copper or nickel mine in the state.
Nickel-sulfide mining, as proposed by Talon Metals, is much different and more polluting than the traditional form of iron mining that has been done in Minnesota.
As such the state does not have laws that protect against this toxic industry. The rules governing sulfide mining are merely guidelines that can be interpreted
and manipulated by the DNR Commissioner, a non-elected official who may not have the needed expertise or understanding in the area of sulfide mining.
Mining companies are fighting the bill. One of the most common and most disingenuous talking points the mining industry and their allies is that, despite all evidence and a perfect record of pollution, Talon Metals and others will not pollute.
They claim that new technology will allow them to mine in a safe, pollution-free manner. But they have no proof of this.
If they were confident that this notoriously toxic form of mining could be done safely, then they should have no problem offering proof of other mines that did not pollute.
As such, they would embrace Prove It First legislation.
The bill is based on a Wisconsin law that blocked all new sulfide mining projects in the state.
In 1998, the Wisconsin legislature passed — with overwhelming bipartisan support — a similar Prove It First bill that was signed into law by a Republican governor.
For the 20 years, no new sulfide mine broke ground in Wisconsin. The simple reason was that no sulfide mining project could prove that it would not pollute.
Unfortunately, the law was repealed by Governor Scott Walker in 2018 ... still with no proof.
"Prove It First!" has the most support of any major environmental
legislation since the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed more than a decade ago.
Since its introduction into the Minnesota Legislature in January, 2021, 64 representatives and senators have publicly announced their support of "Prove It First!".
The bill gained a maximum number of cosponsors in the House of Representatives. However, "Prove it First!" legislation still has a long way to go.
The more people that learn about "Prove It First!", the more they support it. Please take a moment to contact your state legislature and tell them to support clean water. Tell them to support "Prove It First!" and why non-support encourages further pollution of Minnesota waterways.
Is There Proof?
Talon Metals points to both the Wisconsin Flambeau mine as well as the Michigan Eagle mine as examples of successful mines. However, the evidence indicates that both of these mining operations have polluted their respective local areas. See issues with the Flambeau Mine and issues with the Eagle Mine for more information.