Northland doctors concerned about Polymet mining project

By KBJR News 1

March 11, 2014 Updated Mar 11, 2014 at 10:35 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Doctors concerned with the health effects of Polymet's proposed copper-nickel mine held a news conference on Tuesday to share their opinions.

Five of 46 physicians have submitted a letter to the Minnesota DNR requesting that the DNR work with the Department of Health to perform a health risk assessment as part of the Polymet Environmental Review Process.

"There is a lack of information relating to human health within the Polymet project's SDEIS," said Dr. Susan Nordin, MD Family Medicine Duluth. "We believe that the lack of such a health assessment renders the current SDEIS incomplete and insufficient."

The group says that the mine could have significant adverse impacts on human health from the amount of mercury and sulfates released amongst other toxic chemicals.

"The Department of Health has suggested that we not introduce sulfates into the area which is impossible with the current plan as proposed," said Dr. Steve Bauer, MD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

"Sulfide mining in this water rich region in which we all live produces a risk of harm to our environment, to human health, and thus ultimately to our children and grandchildren for many generations to come," said Dr. Jennifer Pearson, MD Family Medicine Duluth.

Polymet officials say the medical professionals are creating fear by misrepresenting the impacts of sulfate and mercury from the project. A representative of Minnesota Mining was in attendance at the meeting.

"Their facts are simply wrong. The SDEIS clearly states that for sulfate and mercury there is a net decrease in sulfate and mercury. That's a good thing," said Frank Ongaro, Mining Minnesota.

The letter from the doctors to the DNR comes just three days before the public comment period for the SDEIS ends.

Polymet assures that the project will meet all applicable federal and state environmental standards.

The public comment period for the supplemental environmental impact statement ends on Thursday, March 13.

Bryce Henry