Environmental group produces film on sulfide mining

A Minnesota environmental group plans to release a film next week about a new type of mining that organizers said could threaten the state's lakes and rivers.

The film, produced by the group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, is about a process commonly known as sulfide mining that extracts metals like copper and nickel from sulfide rock. Environmental groups are concerned about the process because there's a risk sulfuric acid could escape and harm the environment.

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness will release the 24-minute film next Wednesday during an event at Macalester College. Several environmental advocates will speak at the event along with Rep. Alice Hausman, a St. Paul Democrat who proposed legislation to strengthen state regulations on sulfide mining.

The timing of the film's release coincides with a public comment period on a proposed copper and nickel mine in northern Minnesota that uses the process that concerns environmentalists. Comments will be accepted through Feb. 3 on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for PolyMet Mining's project, which would become the first sulfide mining operation in the state.

While PolyMet's project could be a concern, there are many other sulfide mining projects that could come up in the near future, and the film is focused more on the overall issue of sulfide mining, said Paul Danicic, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

"This really is trying to lay the groundwork, whether it's the PolyMet project, or it's legislation or it's future projects, we just want people to pay attention to what's going on," Danicic said. "The film is an attempt to start a conversation and build awareness."

The film will be available on the group's Web site, and organizers will distribute copies of the DVD to environmental and outdoors groups across the state that plan to organize screenings.

The film cost "in the $10,000 to $15,000 range," Danicic said, but several other environmental groups are helping pay for the project. In addition, film director John Whithead donated much of his time, Danicic said.

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