Chamber Lunch Go-ers Met by Protesters

By KBJR News 1

December 6, 2011 Updated Dec 6, 2011 at 7:15 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Many say this controversy boils down to an age-old dispute of environment versus jobs.

"We're hoping to let them know there are people who are paying attention to this issue and we are going to fight for clean water in Minnesota," said Reyna Crow, from Duluth.

PolyMet is on track to be the first working non ferrous mine in Minnesota.

It plans to harvest copper, nickel, palladium, platinum and gold for the area that was once the LTV taconite mine in Hoyt Lakes.

PolyMet spokesperson LaTisha Gietzen said the company is meeting every goal set by every environmental agency from the state to the federal government.

They're currently working on a draft of the supplemental environmental impact statement.

"Any comment that was received on the draft will have to be addressed in the supplemental (draft). Many of the project changes that have occurred in the last two years will address those issues and concerns that were raised on the draft," said Gietzen.

But protesters, who didn't come in to the Kitchie Gammi Club to hear CEO Joe Scipioni's speech, said they still don't feel confident that the process will protect the environment.

"I haven't seen enough details to believe that they have modified their mine plan to where to where it is safe for our public waters," said Bob Tammen from Soudan.

"This is not a harmless product and we have to be very careful with this. They don't have the right to pollute our waterways; they don't have the right to pollute the environment for my children, my grand children, and my great grand children," said Gary Kent, a protester from Finland.

PolyMet CEO Joe Scipioni assured those at the luncheon that government regulations assure that air and water are protected.

"Every company that wants to do business in Minnesota will be required to meet every standard Minnesota has in place, PolyMet will be no exception. Once the PolyMet project is fully defined and comes forward it will demonstrate it can meet all the standards, or it won't get a permit. It's that simple," said Frank Ongaro, executive director of Mining Minnesota.

PolyMet officials say a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement draft is expected to be released to the public in the second quarter of 2012.