More than 100 supporters and opponents of copper-nickel mining on the Iron Range gathered Friday for a five-hour informational forum in Virginia, Minn.
The public input session was the last of three meetings on mining issues sponsored by the Lake Superior Binational Forum.
Presenters from PolyMet Mining, citizen and environmental groups, Indian bands, state regulatory agencies and the University of Minnesota-Duluth spoke for four hours.
In an hourlong question-and-answer session that followed, LaTisha Gietzen, vice president of public, government and environmental affairs at PolyMet, said the mining industry is much more environmentally responsible than in the past.
"We've learned a lot," she said. "We continue to learn a lot; we've learned a lot in the last in the last four years from our draft [environmental impact statement]. I truly believe that we have the people and the knowledge to do it, and do it right."
A proposed development by PolyMet is the farthest along among several companies looking to mine copper, nickel and precious metals in northeastern Minnesota.
Gietzen said PolyMet will leave its plant site cleaner than it is today.
Mining opponents raised pollution concerns and asked whether mining creates long-lasting economic sustainability.
Sustainable mining will only occur in Minnesota with aggressive regulation, said Dave Zentner of the Izaak Walton League in Duluth.
"This is the great challenge," he said, "a reality check as to whether or not in the long haul we have the right regulations that are science-based and whether we have the political will and the courage to enforce them."
PolyMet's supplemental draft EIS statement is expected to be released to the public this summer.