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PR offensives for and against controversial mining proposal

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Both proponents and foes of controversial proposed sulfide mining projects in Minnesota are launching public relations offensives, starting with events in St. Paul.

Politicians, labor and business leaders from northeast Minnesota converged on the state capitol to voice their support for copper-nickel mining.

They argue the projects will create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for the state and local governments.

The goal is to "let the state know that Minnesotans want mining," said Keith Nelson, chair of the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners.

Opponents of projects like the proposed PolyMet mine want to send the opposite message. Dog sled teams will depart Grand Marais and Ely Thursday morning to deliver petitions signed by mining opponents who fear that pollution from the proposed mines could damage the region's watersheds. They plan to arrive at the state capitol on March 8.

PolyMet Mining will pay a group called "AG for Waterfowl" to acquire a mortgage on an unspecified amount of farmland that it plans to restore to wetlands.

AG for Waterfowl will receive $2 million in cash, nearly three million Polymet shares, and the option to purchase shares in the future at a price that is about 20 percent above the current price.

PolyMet said it has now acquired control of land in St. Louis, Aitkin, and Pine Counties that will help the company mitigate the effects on 850 acres of wetlands at the mine site. 

PolyMet will have to restore more acres of wetlands than it destroys, said a company representative. She said the specific ratio will be determined during the permitting process. The project's draft environmental impact statement is scheduled to be released for public review this fall.