Minnesota Poll finds state uncertain about PolyMet mine

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There's a geographical split in opinion about the future of PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposed development on the Iron Range, according to the Star Tribune's Minnesota Poll.

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. PolyMet has promised hundreds of jobs in connection with the mine, a potential economic windfall for residents near the proposed site in northeastern Minnesota.

Although there has been extensive coverage of the proposal, Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the Minnesota Poll, found a significant portion of all of those surveyed – one-third of them – say they remain undecided about what should happen. The story concludes that means those respondents are either troubled about the about environmental risks associated with the development, or have not paid close enough attention to the debate to have formed an opinion.

PolyMet has proposed building the first copper-nickel mine in the northeastern part of the state. The plan by the Canadian-based company has promoted the prospect of economic development in the area. The company has said the project would bring 350 long-term mining jobs plus hundreds of temporary construction jobs. The PolyMet proposal would mine about 32,000 tons of rock just north of Hoyt Lakes every day, yielding about 76,000 tons of copper annually.

But with the plan comes concern about the environmental impact of the mine. Thousands of Minnesotans have attended recent public meetings to learn more about the review process.

In the Twin Cities, opinions were equally divided among the three possible answers, while in the suburbs, 45 percent said the mine should be approved. Again, there were significantly more in the suburbs who were not sure, 36 percent, compared with the number who thought the plan should be rejected. Men were more likely to approve than women, and more women than men said they were not sure.

No legislation about the mine will be introduced in the upcoming session, according to the House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, who said “the best thing is to let the process work its way out.”

Environmentalists have objected to the mine for its impact on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the potential for pollution. A story in MinnPost notes that the PolyMet Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which includes 2,000 pages of findings, includes nothing about the development's impact on the moose population in the region. The story points out the project proposes to drain wetlands in the Superior National Forest, which is habitat for the animals. The moose population has been studied and counted extensively to verify a steady but mysterious decline in numbers.

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