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Minnesotans protest planned PolyMet mine at Toronto shareholders meeting

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Protesters from Duluth at a PolyMet shareholders meeting in Toronto.
Protesters from Duluth for Clean Water, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Amnesty International and the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network outside of the PolyMet shareholders meeting in Toronto on Wednesday.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Environmentalists Bob and Pat Tammen of Soudan, Minn., drove their 25-foot motorhome to Toronto for PolyMet's annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.

"It's a little bit of vacation, a little bit of clean water activism," said Bob Tammen, a retired iron miner who opposes the copper-nickel mine PolyMet plans to build in northeastern Minnesota.

The Tammens bought 100 shares of PolyMet stock more than a decade ago so they could attend the meetings. 

Wednesday's meeting came at the end of PolyMet's latest stock offering, which could help the company clear debt and move closer to raising the money it needs to start building the mine near Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes, Minn. Observers are also watching to see if Swiss mining giant Glencore becomes a majority owner of the company. 

Duluth city council member Joel Sipress also made the trip to Toronto, along with a University of Minnesota law professor and representatives from Duluth for Clean Water and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. The delegation held a demonstration outside the shareholders meeting.

Sipress said the trip was an opportunity to raise awareness about concerns associated with the mine, ranging from water quality to health risks. He said a PolyMet representative came out to greet the protesters.

"It's clear that PolyMet knows that we're watching," he said. "That's how it should be, because if people in Duluth don't stand up for our water quality, no one else will."

Sipress said he's especially concerned about alleged irregularities in how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency handled the federal Environmental Protection Agency's feedback on a water permit state regulators issued to the project. He said he and his constituents are also concerned about how the mine could affect the water quality of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. 

University of Minnesota associate law professor Jennie Green, who co-chairs the Business and Human Rights Group of Amnesty International USA, said Amnesty is weighing in on the project because of potential risks to water quality and human health as well as questions about whether Native American tribes were adequately consulted about the project. 

The group is also raising concerns about past human rights allegations against Swiss mining giant Glencore, which could become PolyMet's majority owner. 

PolyMet is expected to release more information this week about the meeting and the results of the offering.