PolyMet Mine – Spotlight Shed on Risks
For the past six weeks, WaterLegacy has been investigating the financial capacity of the PolyMet corporation, the company proposing Minnesota’s first sulfide mine, and track record of its significant financial backer, Glencore International AG (Glencore).
We learned that PolyMet openly admits it has neither assets nor insurance to cover potential liabilities for environmental pollution associated with open pit sulfide mining. Glencore, the privately held Swiss company backing the PolyMet project, has $5.3 billion in profits and a turnover of $116.5 billion.
However, Glencore has been rated by European NGOs as the “Worst Corporation of the Year.” Globally. Quite a distinction. Its global track record includes pollution at mine operations for copper in Africa and coal in South America, union busting, job shedding when prices fluctuate and stripping a French subsidiary of funds, leaving a $400 unfunded pollution clean-up liability at a copper processing facility. See WaterLegacy’s PolyMet & Glencore Report for more detailed information. WaterLegacyPolyMetGlencoreReport(3-11)
In light of WaterLegacy’s Report, the Star Tribune asked Minnesota State agencies how they intended to make sure that there was adequate financial assurance for the proposed PolyMet sulfide mine. Interestingly, although the U. S. EPA compliance division told PolyMet and the agencies last February that detailed financial investigation should be part of PolyMet’s environmental review, state agencies are now suggesting that they might put off financial assurance analysis until the permitting process, long after alternatives for mining and water quality treatment are determined. See Star Tribune, Copper Mine Risks Highlighted (March 1, 2011) .StarTribune, “Copper Mine’s Risks Spotlighted.”
Even if the thought of destroying a thousand acres of wetlands for an open pit mine doesn’t bother you and you are not dismayed by the vision of 375,000,000 tons of waste rock (see MDNR Slides of Tailings and Waste Rock) making sure that the company profiting from the mine pays to prevent violation of water quality standards seems pretty fundamental. If PolyMet and its backers don’t provide financial assurance to clean up their pollution, you can be sure that all of us will end up picking up the tab.