Environmentalists open anti-mining push

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Environmental groups launched a campaign Wednesday to raise public awareness ahead of the summer vacation season about plans for copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota.

Conservation Minnesota, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy are targeting the proposed PolyMet mine near Hoyt Lakes and the proposed Twin Metals mine near Ely.

The campaign includes the web site MiningTruth.org, a 40-page report examining mining in detail, a Facebook community, and four billboards along Interstate 35 between the Twin Cities and Duluth to reach summer travelers.

Environmental groups call it sulfide mining because the copper, nickel, gold and other metals are locked up in minerals that contain sulfur and can produce sulfuric acid and other contaminants when exposed to the elements. They fear toxic runoff would threaten Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. And they say the environmental record of such mining elsewhere is poor.

"These are not our grandfather's iron ore mines," said Molly Pederson, government affairs director for Conservation Minnesota. "This is a completely different kind of mining."

Pederson said they're encouraging discussion now because Minnesotans will get to weigh in with regulators and elected officials as plans move forward.

Frank Ongaro, executive director of the industry group MiningMinnesota, disputed the term sulfide mining, saying companies plan to mine nonferrous metals, not sulfides. He said Minnesota has some of the world's largest deposits of these metals, and that demand is growing.

"The state of Minnesota has strong, solid comprehensive regulations in place, and any individual company that proposes a mineral development project will have to demonstrate that they can meet or exceed Minnesota's strong standards or they won't get a permit," he said.

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