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Late Night: Jason Metsa vs. Clean Water

From the beginning of his political career, Minnesota State Representative Jason Metsa has been focused on getting jobs for his constituents in the northern part of the state. Unfortunately, that quest for jobs has made him all too willing to ignore other basic issues that are of concern to his constituents, as well as to other Minnesotans, including fellow labor-friendly Democrats like Karen Clark and John Marty.

In a mockery of the “Blue-Green Alliance”, Metsa’s Ahab-like hunt for jobs has put him, a former labor organizer, in bed with some pretty unsavory corporate entities as Nathan Ness, the creator of the video above, notes:

For example, Rep. Metsa’s idea of “pro-union” is to support copper-nickel (sulfide mining) and companies such as PolyMet, whose parent company Glencore is responsible for busting unions in Columbia and Peru, while polluting the water, then leaving locals to clean up the mess. To be an apologist for PolyMet /Glencore while considering yourself a hero of the working class, is absurd.

Ness isn’t the only Minnesotan who is suspicious of PolyMet/Glencore and sulfide mining. Outdoorsman and longtime North Country resident David Lien made these comments back in January of this year:

The fact is, in January 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency released its annual Toxic Release Inventory. Once again, metal mining was at the top of the list of polluters across the country. Such mining was responsible for 41 percent of all pollution in our country last year. So, when sulfide mining proponents tell us about their modern technology that will allow mining for copper and nickel without causing pollution, just look at the track record. Look at the facts; everything else is wishful thinking; smoke and mirrors.

[…]

Sulfide-mining proponents must not know that mining of sulfide-metal ore has never been accomplished without causing eventual acid-metal leachate pollution of ground and surface waters. As a result, Wisconsin placed a moratorium on sulfide mining operations in 1997 until it could be demonstrated that such a mine would not pollute the water. The moratorium is still in place.

[…]

Mining proponents also talk about the jobs that will be created, but don’t take into consideration how many jobs will be lost. In Minnesota, the fishing industry alone supports 50,000 jobs and recreational fishing brings in $3 billion a year, which would be in jeopardy when acid rock drainage leaches into creeks, streams, rivers and watersheds, eventually ending up in Lake Superior.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area draws 250,000 visitors a year from around the world. This, in turn, fuels a $1.6 billion tourism economy. Tourism is no get rich quick scheme, but it’s dependable, unlike the boom and bust of mining, which guarantees an economy that lurches from crisis to crisis. In addition, as everyone knows, Minnesota is home to well over 10,000 lakes and countless streams, rivers, and wetlands. In terms of environmental risk, you could easily argue this is one of the worst places on the planet for a sulfide mine.

Mining has historically always been a boom and bust industry. In the last 20 years, 16 hard rock mines declared bankruptcy. This devastates local economies dependent on the mining industry and forces taxpayers to cover the enormous cost of cleanup and restoration. The jobs that mining companies offer will not bring prosperity. If mining companies’ promises were true, northern Minnesota would be the wealthiest part of the country after some 130 years of iron ore mining in the region.

Don’t sulfide mining proponents know about northern Minnesota’s other (far more) valuable asset—the $700 million tourism industry, which depends on pristine woods and lakes. Don’t they know tourism is Minnesota’s fifth-largest industry, generating $11 billion in annual sales and providing nearly 11 percent of total private-sector employment. Minnesota’s nearly 600,000 hunters alone spend over $482 million dollars each year, and the ripple effect to Minnesota’s economy is over $1.47 billion.

For more on Glencore’s atrocious human-rights, labor, and environmental records, go here. For information on mercury pollution in Minnesota, go here and here (sub required for full article).

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