Members of the Senate DFL joined House DFL members and environmental advocates last week to announce “Prove it First” legislation that changes processes for copper sulfide mine permitting in Minnesota. This legislation would require that for a permit to mine nonferrous sulfide ore to be issued, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency must determine that a similar mine must have been operated and been closed without the release of a hazardous substance or other contaminant.
Proponents of the legislation point to significant differences between the iron and taconite mining that has long been an economic staple in Minnesota and copper sulfide mining that bears greater environmental and health risks. Those risks come from sulfuric acid produced, which pose a threat to nearby waterways. Two proposed copper sulfide mines in northeastern Minnesota would be adjacent to waterways that are upstream from the city of Duluth and the Boundary Waters Canoe area. Tourism for outdoor recreation in the Boundary Waters area supports 17,000 jobs and $913 million in tourism revenue.
Pollutants created from sulfide mining have been linked to neural disorders, especially among children. “Prove it First” proponents emphasize the need to ensure that the burden of health and environmental impacts do not fall more heavily on indigenous Minnesotans and people of color.
The Prove it First Bill, SF 59, has been introduced and referred to the Senate Mining and Forestry Policy Committee. A companion bill has been introduced in the House, and has been referred to the Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee (HF 148).