More than a hundred demonstrators, concerned about the environment, rallied in St. Paul Tuesday afternoon to try to stop the proposed PolyMet mine project in northern Minnesota.
But 200 miles north – where mining jobs have been shed by the hundreds recently, leaving residents and cities with a dearth of economic opportunities – locals banded together to push back against the message.
"I don't think people realize that we are fighting for our lives up here," said Mary Skelton, mayor of Hoyt Lakes, according to Forum News Service.
MPR News reports about 120 anti-PolyMet demonstrators showed for the #StopPolyMet rally, with speakers such as Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth appearing at the mic. Attendees then walked to the DNR offices with signed documents asking them and Gov. Mark Dayton to halt the PolyMet project.
"They are going after crumbs. PolyMet is extreme mining just as deep sea drilling is extreme, desperate drilling," LaDuke said, according to the Minnesota Green Party, which showed up at the rally. "Real jobs would fix our cities and repair our aging infrastructure, not destroy our water for 500 years."
According to Forum News Service, Dayton has said part of his legacy will be the ultimate decision of the PolyMet project.
Dayton is planning to visit similar mines in Michigan and South Dakota in the next few weeks, the Associated Press reports, to see for himself how the surrounding communities have been affected by the mines.
In addition, the Duluth News Tribune recently wrote about a group of Duluth business owners who are now publicly pushing their opposition to mining projects in the area, with one telling the paper they're "making local things and creating jobs that are sustainable. Let's not do anything to hurt that."
'We Support Mining'
But in Aurora, in the heart of the Iron Range where new mining jobs would directly benefit residents, local mayors and mining supporters gathered to push back, the Mesabi Daily News reports.
The "biggest slam for me was recently when we lost our drug store in town,” Aurora Mayor Mary Hess told attendees. “But if you look around our main street, it’s pretty sad to see all of the empty storefronts in this city.”
That rally was organized in just a few days, after word of the St. Paul event got around, WDIO reports.
About the PolyMet plan
PolyMet’s NorthMet Project would include an open-pit mine near Babbitt and a processing plant near Hoyt Lakes, not far from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It would be Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine, which means it is setting a precedent for the permit process and regulation.
Environmental groups opposed to the project note that the precious metals are embedded in rock that also contains sulfide, which produces sulfuric acid and other pollutants when it’s exposed to air and water.
Backers of the project have cited the jobs it would create in northeastern Minnesota and the demand for the precious metals.
A new timeline from the Minnesota DNR over the summer – which you can view here – would give the public 30 days to comment on the PolyMet mine proposal’s environmental impact statement starting in November.
The 30-day public review period would run from early November until early December (barring any changes), with the agencies then considering and processing the comments received before heading toward a final decision in 2016.
For more on that process, and where things go from here, check out this story.