Northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range has been a major mining hub since the 1860s. Nestled among thick forests and many of the state’s famed “10,000 lakes,” open-pit mines there produce low-grade iron ore that’s shipped to steel mills around the country. But for the last few decades, as the U.S. steel industry has waned and demand for different minerals has grown, multiple companies have proposed something new: hard rock mining, which involves extracting valuable metals from sulfide ores and produces large amounts of acidic waste. One of these, the PolyMet Mining Corporation, has been locked in a battle to open Minnesota’s first copper-sulfide mine near the tiny town of Babbitt for over 17 years. The $1 billion project has been mired in legal challenges almost since its inception.
Now, environmentalists and nearby tribal nations hope that recent court victories will shut it down for good. Earlier this month, the Army Corps of Engineers held a hearing to decide whether to reissue a permit for PolyMet to dump waste rock on more than 900 acres of wetlands, a possibility that the downstream Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa vehemently opposes. The Envir... Read more