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Minnesota State Governor Mark Dayton (Image provided by Office of Governor)

Gov. Dayton traveling to view best and worst of mining

Governor Mark Dayton Thursday announced plans to see the best and worst of hard rock mining in preparation for his upcoming decision on whether to permit the controversial open pit copper-nickel mine proposed by PolyMet Mining Corp. in northeast Minnesota.

On October 27, Dayton plans to visit the Gilt Edge Mine in Lead, S.D., on the north side of the Black Hills. Originally opened in the late 1800s, gold and silver was mined there until 1999, when the owner declared bankruptcy and abandoned it. It is now a highly contaminated Superfund site.

It has similarities to PolyMet in that both involve mining for metals in sulfide bearing rock, which can cause highly acidic water pollution when exposed to air and water.

The most recent mine operator, Brohm Mining Company (BMC), left about 150 million gallons of acidic, heavy-metal-laden water in three open pits and millions of cubic yards of acid-generating waste rock. To date, the Environmental Protection Agency and South Dakota have spent more than $105 million in clean-up costs, but the mine continues to pollute surrounding creeks.

On Oct. 30, Dayton will head to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to see the Eagle Mine, a copper nickel mine about 40 miles west of Marquette. It went into production in September 2014 after a 12-year legal and political battle.

The Eagle Mine is an underground mine that transports ore via trucks to a nearby mill for processing. It is expected to produce 360 million pounds of nickel, 295 million pounds of copper and small amounts of other metals over its eight year mine life. To date, there have been no significant pollution issues.

PolyMet’s 10-year environmental review is expected to be largely completed by November, and the company is expected to apply for a permit to start construction. Dayton has said that whether to allow the controversial project to go forward will be one of the most difficult decisions he’ll make as governor.

In related news, DNR requests Supreme Court review of Houston County sand mine decision.

This article was written by Josephine Marcotty from Star Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.