What is the sulfide content at NorthMet? Has copper/nickel been mined safely?

PolyMet's large, low sulfide, low grade ore deposit would be an open pit mine. NorthMet low grade ore contains .31% copper with low sulfur content of .88%. In comparison, the Flambeau Copper Mine in Wisconsin had 11% copper with 30% sulfur.

The Flambeau Mine - Located in northern Wisconsin's Rusk County, partially within city limits of Ladysmith and immediately adjacent to the Flambeau River, this copper mine has complied with all applicable environmental regulations since opening in 1993. Stormwater runoff from sulfide waste material and the operating open pit, along with groundwater infiltration into the pit, are treated in a state-of-the-art water treatment facility that produces mine discharge water which has proven safe at 100 percent concentration (i.e., without dilution) for the most sensitive aquatic life, and meets state drinking water safety standards. Examinations of fish, crayfish, macro-invertebrates, and dragonfly; sediment sampling; and habitat characterization both above and below the mine discharge point prove the mine water has not adversely affected river life. City officials credit the mine with creating an economic miracle for the local community of 4,000 people. Tax revenue from the mine has stimulated an economic development boom in Rusk County where the unemployment rate has fallen from 15.3% just prior to the mine opening to 4.0% in October 1996. The Flambeau Mine is one of Rusk County's top tourist attractions, with over 30,000 people per year visiting the mine's information center.

A few other examples of environmentally responsible sulfide mines include the following:

The Henderson Mine and Mill - this molybdenum sulfide mine and mill have maintained a spotless environmental compliance record since 1976 when mining and milling operations commenced. Both the mine and the mill are located in Denver's watershed, and two reservoirs associated with the nearby reclaimed Urad Mine are used as municipal reservoirs for the city of Golden, Colorado. Denver residents regularly use areas adjacent to the mine and mill sites for fishing, camping, picnicking, hunting, hiking, skiing, and snowmobiling. Treated wastewater from the operation supports a thriving population of Boreal toads, a species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing as threatened and endangered. Streams downstream from both the mine and mill facilities are excellent brown and brook trout fisheries.

The Viburnum Mine No. 27 - developed in geology similar to that found in southwestern Wisconsin's lead-zinc mining district, the water from this lead-zinc sulfide mine, which operated from 1960 to 1978, is so clean it has served as the primary domestic water source for the town of Viburnum, Missouri since 1981.

The McLaughlin Mine - straddling three counties about 70 miles north of San Francisco in the rugged mountainous terrain of California's Coast Range, this gold mine is acknowledged by regulators, environmentalists, and the mining industry to be a model of effective environmental practice. Proactive mine planning and permitting processes, pollution prevention features, and reclamation and habitat management programs are just some of the mine's successful environmental efforts that have been adapted for use at other mine sites. Comprehensive environmental monitoring of the McLaughlin Mine confirms the ecological effectiveness of these practices. This monitoring demonstrates that since its development in 1985, the mine has operated without environmental harm, and has not only protected but actually enhanced the quality of both on-site and downstream habitats and improved downstream water quality.

The Stillwater Mine - located in southern Montana in the magnificent Beartooth Mountains on the northern edge of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, about 30 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, this platinum-palladium sulfide mine is an excellent example of environmentally responsible mining in an extremely beautiful and sensitive environment. Operating since 1987, the Stillwater Mine has maintained a clean environmental record. The only domestic source of these strategic minerals, the Stillwater operation includes an off-site smelter in Columbus, Montana with state-of-the-art pollution control equipment. This underground mine is recognized by regulators, environmental groups, and industry experts for its excellent concurrent reclamation activities, wildlife enhancement projects, community support programs, and responsive environmental management. In addition to its scenic attributes, the area around the mine is also recognized for its recreational opportunities - the mine is adjacent to the Stillwater River, a Montana Blue Ribbon Trout Fishery.

The Cannon Mine - This gold mine was developed in 1985, one block south of the Wenatchee, Washington, city limits. This agricultural community of approximately 40,000, known as "the apple capital of the world", is about 150 miles east of Seattle. Cannon Mine is a model of environmentally responsible mining in an established urban environment. The mine, which operated for nine years, is now in the final stages of reclamation, and nearly all traces of this once bustling underground mining and milling project are gone.

Southwestern Wisconsin Historic Lead-Zinc District - At least a dozen historic (i.e., closed) mines in the lead-zinc district southwestern Wisconsin and adjacent parts of Iowa and Illinois meet the arbitrary operating and closure criteria in the proposed legislation. Mining in this district began as early as 1825, long before the enactment of federal and Wisconsin environmental laws and regulations. Mining in the district continued into the twentieth century, with the last zinc mine closing in the late 1970s. Most of the mines in southwestern Wisconsin were abandoned without formal reclamation; many were simply plowed under and today remain as nearly indiscernible features in the rolling farmlands characteristic of this part of Wisconsin. Although a few isolated and localized water quality problems are known at several mines in the district, there are literally hundreds of historic mines that do not create surface water or groundwater pollution problems. The ore bodies in this district contain abundant acid-generating iron sulfide minerals (pyrite and marcasite). However, ARD is not a problem in this district due to the high acid neutralization capacity of the carbonate host rocks. A number of communities in the area including Platteville and Dodgeville, Wisconsin; Dubuque, Iowa; and Galena, Illinois and are built on top of and adjacent to these historic mines.