MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A House committee opened hearings Tuesday on a plan to open a copper-nickel mine on northern Minnesota’s Iron Range.
The range sits atop the world’s second largest copper, and third largest nickel, deposit in the world.READ MORE: Twin Cities Man Found With Self-Inflicted Stab Wound Charged With Murdering Father
But the possibility of pollution from the mines brought a big crowd to the hearing, where industry representatives said mining companies are taking every possible environmental precaution.
“We believe that Minnesota has a reputation for getting things done right and getting them done right the first time,” Frank Ongaro, Jr., of Mining Minnesota, said at the hearing. “We can be a model for the rest of the country and the world and move forward with responsible mining.”
The PolyMet mining company is planning a $600 million open pit mine that it says will employ at least 300 workers for at least 20 years.
But a Canadian copper-mine disaster last August gave more ammunition to critics.READ MORE: New York City Announces First-In-The-Nation Vaccine Mandate For Private Companies
They say possible catastrophic damage to land and water isn’t worth the risk.
“We in Minnesota do not want, cannot afford, this kind of a scene in our precious north-northern Minnesota forests and lakes,” Betsy Daub, of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said at the hearing.
A frustrated Iron Range mayor said critics use copper and nickel every day, from somewhere else.
“If you look around the room,” Hoyt Lakes mayor Mark Skelton said, “we want all them toys, we want our iPads, we want our cell phones and we want our computers!”
PolyMet is waiting for results of an environmental review, due this spring.MORE NEWS: Minnesota State Fair Reinstates Police Force
State officials say they will make a decision within 150 days after that.