The pandemic’s end, PolyMet mine, Water Works artist

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Great news! According the World Health Organization, the end of the COVID pandemic is “in sight.” For some of us, that means very little, as we continue to seek treatment and diagnosis for long-haul symptoms. I am currently seeing a neurologist, a therapist, an energy healer and an internal medicine doctor with appointments for alternative health and a psychiatrist scheduled.

I am 52 years old and know a handful of people around my age with similar symptoms; brain fog, fainting spells, fatigue, neuropathy in hands and feet and weight loss. I don’t look sick, although some question my impulsive and erratic personality, so empathy is hard to come by from others. Every person’s experience with COVID and symptoms is different, so diagnosing what’s happening is a challenge to all.

I am not able to work in the same capacity — a four-hour shift, at a part-time job at a local retailer I picked up when everything else shut down, was next to impossible to complete. I find myself being advised to apply for disability benefits, not something I am comfortable with, but I am beginning the process.

So as the pandemic wanes, please remember for many of us, our symptoms continue. Please be kind and supportive to the medical community that has been taking care of us — for us, the COVID pandemic is long from over.

Elizabeth L. Gillies, St. Paul

POLYMET MINE

Ron Way’s commentary that ran Sept. 14 (“It’s time to approve the PolyMet mine”) has generated close to 200 comments about issues he raised that did not include downstream water pollution affecting Native Americans. Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing more than 20,000 comments submitted after the Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa’s lawsuit objecting to the Corps’ previous issuance of a Clean Water Act Section 401 permit for PolyMet. The court remanded the permit and put the ball back into the Corps’ court for another review. The big question is: Will the Corps deny or reinstate PolyMet’s federal water permit?

Section 401 essentially regulates water pollution and protects water quality. At issue is safeguarding the downstream waters from pollution caused by the mine, specifically mercury and increased conductivity (or salts) in the water. The mine has potential for several other impacts, both short- and long-term — from its tailings pond (the Environmental Protection Agency report mentions the risk of failure by the tailings basin dam), pollution to groundwater and destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands including peatlands.

The EPA obtained two scientific reviews by its national scientists. On April 29 of this year, they issued a long report (found at epa.gov/mn/polymet-northmet-mine) in which they conclude that the Corps “not reissue” the suspended permit as proposed. Already the St. Louis River and two tributaries are considered “impaired” waters by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from mercury pollution. Fish tissues have elevated mercury. The EPA found no conditions on the previous 401 permit that would ensure compliance with the band’s water-quality standards. I’m grateful that the EPA took time to meet with the tribes, that it recognizes the importance of their treaty rights, and acknowledges the EPA’s obligation to honor those rights. I’m grateful they engaged key scientists in this review. It is time to stop PolyMet, not time to approve it.

Judy Helgen, Falcon Heights

The writer is a retired research scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

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In his Sept. 16 piece, Aaron Klemz engages subtle sleight of hand to argue against permitting the PolyMet project (“We cannot mine our way out of the climate crisis,” Opinion Exchange). He states, “In 2019, a PolyMet spokesperson said that copper from PolyMet ‘could end up anywhere’ when asked if it would be used for wind turbines or solar panels.”

Klemz presents this statement as a sort of shocking revelation. But the PolyMet spokesperson was simply stating the truth. We can be sure of this because it precisely reflects how commodity markets work. Mines aren’t built to serve specific industries, much like how farmers, except in very rare circumstances, don’t grow corn or other crops specifically for individual product lines like Cheetos. Commodity producers provide supply to the market, in response to demand, in order to lower and stabilize prices. I work in the agriculture industry and have yet to meet a farmer whose continued operation ideologically depended on the precise, actual end use of the farm’s output.

We can’t be certain where every ton of PolyMet output will be consumed. But we can be certain that some of it will make its way to green technology. The fact of the matter is that copper prices reached an all-time high in March 2022, and demand for the metal is projected to grow. Development of PolyMet would expand metals supply, help stabilize prices and shorten carbon-intensive supply chains for domestic manufacturers of green technology.

Sophisticated opponents of PolyMet almost certainly understand this economic context. That it is conveniently ignored suggests either an underestimation of public intelligence or an attempt at a cheap rhetorical trick. Minnesotans would be right to expect a more sophisticated level of debate.

Brian J. Krause, Minneapolis

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The recent commentary “It’s time to approve the PolyMet mine” pushes the false narrative that we need to risk polluting our state’s wilderness areas with copper-sulfide mining to fight climate change. The reality is the initial and ongoing carbon emissions from these mines could easily offset any benefit. These low-grade mines are very energy-intensive and preventing their metals from reaching the market may simply shift production to lower-emission sources. PolyMet and Twin Metals would release up to 1.9 million tons of carbon dioxide per year (equivalent to 372,000 passenger vehicles). Furthermore, the planned destruction of wetlands and peat bogs (a critically important carbon sink) would release an additional 4.3 million tons, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The PolyMet and Twin Metals mines at full production would account for about 0.6% of global copper output. Copper is easily recycled, and recycling uses 85% less energy than a new mine. Consider that only 38% of the copper in the U.S. is currently recycled. If we were to raise this to 50%, that’s enough incremental copper to offset five Twin Metals mines and 10 PolyMet mines.

The argument that these mines will help diversify the Iron Range economy is suspect. China consumes half the world’s iron ore and half its copper. How is this not doubling down on the same boom-bust cycles?

We don’t need to sacrifice our remaining wilderness areas for a commodity. Sulfide-ore mining has never occurred without polluting.

Adam Benson, Minneapolis

The writer is a member of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

WATER WORKS ARTIST

The article about Inkpa Mani, the artist from Wheaton, Minn., whose stone sculpture design was chosen to overlook St. Anthony Falls, made me angry (“Identity disputed, sculpture shelved,” Sept. 11). I don’t understand the “cultural appropriation” argument. The article states, “Though Mani was adopted by a Dakota family, he is not Dakota by blood.” The article described him as “Dakota-speaking.” Outside of my believing that politically correct thinking has run amok in Mani’s case, I think this is a slap against adopted children. So he’s not of Dakota blood? Is his immersion in the Dakota culture not enough? Is the argument here that his DNA is “wrong”? If so, I think he’s being treated like a Jew or a gypsy in Nazi Germany for not being Aryan.

Skye Smith, Minneapolis