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Doctors: Copper mining health effects not clear in PolyMet review

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Physicians, nurses and medical school faculty in the Duluth area are concerned that the health effects of copper mining have not been adequately addressed in the environmental review of the PolyMet mining project, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

According to the paper, a group of 19 health professionals say the state and federal agencies conducting the environmental impact statement "have not been clear about the health impacts that sulfide mining will have on the people of Northeastern Minnesota and visitors to the region."

The medical professionals say the review fails to adequately define the effects of increased mercury emissions, exposure to asbestos-like mineral fibers and arsenic.

The public comment period on the environmental impact statement runs through March 13. Thousands of Minnesotans have already attended public meetings to state their opinions about the project and learn more about the review process.

Responding to the health professionals' concerns, PolyMet Vice President of Corporate Communications Bruce Richardson says in a written statement that the project wouldn't be able to obtain permits to move forward if the company were unable to "demonstrate that we meet all federal and state standards for safety, human health and the environment.”

Richardson says PolyMet is confident the project design meets all standards, and "individuals or groups who have any concerns or comments about our proposed project should submit their comment to the co-lead agencies managing this process.”

The concerns were raised just days after a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found a split in opinion about the future of PolyMet project.

The poll found that in the entire state, 46 percent of respondents want the controversial copper-nickel mine to be approved, and 21 percent say it should be rejected. But focus in on just northern Minnesota, and the approval rating grows to 69 percent.

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