Demonstrators urge county to call copper mine plan a threat to St. Louis River

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Demonstrators who rallied at the courthouse in Duluth Tuesday called on county commissioners to acknowledge that a proposed northeastern Minnesota copper mine would threaten the health of the St. Louis River.

But the St. Louis County Board did not act on a resolution proposed by the protesters, the News Tribune reports, and seems unlikely to do so, given its past support for copper mining as a way to help the region's economy, the newspaper says.

Last spring, the group American Rivers put the St. Louis on its list of the country's most endangered waterways – largely because a copper-nickel mine project has been proposed near the river's headwaters.

American Rivers and other environmental groups argue wastewater from the mine proposed by PolyMet would contaminate the St. Louis River watershed.

PolyMet issued a statement saying its mine would have no adverse effect on the river, WDIO says. The company says water would be treated to meet state and federal quality standards before it's released from the site of the proposed mine near Hoyt Lakes.

Cleanup underway on the St. Louis

The St. Louis runs about 180 miles from the Mesabi Iron Range northeast into Lake Superior, making it the lake's largest tributary.

The stretch of it the river closest to Duluth and Lake Superior has been seen substantial industrial pollution over the years, particularly at the former site of a U.S. Steel plant.

U.S. Steel and the federal government allocated money to develop a cleanup plan earlier this year, in the latest of several cleanup projects on the river.

After Tuesday's rally outside the St. Louis County courthouse, Andrew Slade of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership told the county board of the river: "Let's not clean it up only to pollute it again," the News Tribune reports.

This summer, state and federal regulators finished revising an environmental review of the PolyMet project based on public comments. A new 30-day comment period is expected to open in early November, after which PolyMet could begin applying for the various permits it needs for the mine.

That process will likely last well into 2016.

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