Countering positive mining impact claims By John Kocovsky
I’d like to counter a number of claims made in Joyce Bant’s recent letter “Mining would bring benefits to state” (Viewpoint, March 11).
The author holds up the Flambeau/Ladysmith and Lake Wazee mines as two examples of mining success, or as someone aptly put it: “Just Grass over a Grave.”
1) New tests (11/2/11) show that water pollution is still a problem at the Flambeau/Ladysmith mining site that closed in 1997. The state DNR says 41 percent of 94 water samples at the old mine exceeded toxic standards for copper-and-zinc over the past two years. And despite efforts by the Kennecott Company to clean up the site, the water samples show there’s a continued threat to fish and other aquatic life. Now Kennecott is proposing that the liner be removed from the detention basin so that the contaminated water can seep down into the earth and not pollute the streams directly.
2) Lake Wazee is touted as a pristine lake with exceptional water clarity excellent for scuba diving. It should be because it is by definition an oligotrophic lake, which means it lacks nutrients and plant life but is high in dissolved oxygen. It currently supports a mix of cold and warm water species, including brown and rainbow trout and smallmouth bass and walleye but, only as a result of DNR fish stocking. In other words, it is sort of like a big sterile swimming pool in the middle of the woods.
Also touted is the economic benefits realized by Minnesota and Michigan because of mining. But, at what cost; all nine of the operating taconite mines in Michigan and Minnesota have serious, recent air and water violations. A survey of compliance records from 2004-11 shows these taconite mines are chronic polluters, incurring fines and stipulations of over $10 million. A Minnesota DNR report found that taconite mining is the second largest source of mercury emissions after coal power plants (advisories are in place against consuming mercury contaminated fish). Moreover, there is the concern that taconite mining could lead to mesothelioma, a rare cancer that forms in the outer lining of the lungs. The rate of mesothelioma is 70 percent higher in northern Minnesota than the rest of the country.
As for the mining recycling charges, first GTAC has to pay them only if tailings are dumped off site, and second, after cross-checking the Legislative Fiscal Bureau report numbers, the recycling fees would be $16,800,000, not $200 million.
John Kocovsky, Hazelhurst