Letter to the editor: Sulfide mining may have its benefits
By: From Ryan McArdle, Keegan Bragg and Anthony Meschke, St Paul, Minn. , Lake County News Chronicle
I would like to discuss with you the sulfide mines that are currently being proposed in northern Minnesota. I have been researching the topic and much of the information seems very biased, either for or against sulfide mining. What I would like share with you today is an unbiased article displaying the positives and negatives of sulfide mining so that you can make an informed decision.
The environment and how humans affect it are very important to all of us and are the big issues facing sulfide mining. Especially since the proposed mines are near the beloved BWCAW and could have the potential for negative environmental impacts. There are many examples of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) that have impacted the environment from sulfide mines during the last 30 years. The AMD is caused when the atmosphere and rain mix with the sulfur minerals and cause sulfuric acid. This sulfuric acid, if not contained, can damage the water supply, food supply, and wildlife. Cleaning up AMD is extremely expensive and, in the past, has fallen on the tax payers when mining companies go bankrupt. However, not all mines are polluting and hazardous. There are examples of mines that have operated safely and shut down safely with no damage to the environment. In Ladysmith, WI they used a water treatment plant that successfully treated the water and when the mining was done the mine was shut down successfully and cleanly.
Many who trumpet the horn of sulfide mining’s positive economic impact talk about the job opportunities, tax revenues, and stimulation of other local businesses from the mine. Those who are against sulfide mining talk about the clean-up costs of a leaks or accidents, low skill and low paying jobs that are only temporary, and the loss of environment dependent jobs such as farming and fishing. However, it has been found that if a mine is operated in an environmentally safe way there are no clean-up costs or loss of environment dependent jobs. Sulfide mines typically need many high skilled and low skilled workers which is good for the local community. The highly skilled jobs are typically brought in from abroad in the beginning because it is hard to find specialized mine personnel in a small community. This slowly transitions to being more local as interns and On the Job Training happens at the mines. This provides a stable income and benefits for many in the community and is a good learning experience for many students. Sulfide mines bring in a lot of revenue to the surrounding area in property taxes and corporate taxes which can be a boom for local communities in remote areas. There is however a large tax burden on the tax payers if an accident does happen and they are stuck paying the clean-up costs.
The advances in recent years have made mining and water treatment much safer and more reliable than ever before. These greatly reduce the risk for pollution and accidents that have been prevalent in the industry before and have given it a bad name. The sulfide mines can be operated safely if there is knowledge and experience or can be operated dangerously if we do not learn from the lessons of the past. Dialogue can lead to an agreement that will make everyone satisfied. If an agreement is reached that guarantees the safety of our environment, sulfide mining can be profitable for the local economy, the mining companies, and ensure the well- being of our environment.