The first of three public hearings on the supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposed copper/nickel/precious metals project near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt showed just how united the vast majority of Iron Rangers are in support of the venture.
While Duluth and other media speculated that opponents and supporters were evenly split at the five-hour public hearing that included a two-hour open house session and a three-hour comment period, the numbers just don’t add up that way.
They reported that attendance was 1,300 to 1,500. But of that number, a caravan of seven buses and a passenger van journeyed from the Range with at least 500 supporters and another 100 or more arrived in advance by cars.
That already puts the percentage of supporters and opponents at about 50-50. And that doesn’t take into account a large contingent of backers for the project from Duluth and some from the Twin Cities.
And an audio measurement of applause after a supporter or opponent gave a three-minute comment again clearly demonstrated more in favor of the project than against.
The unified message of business and labor all across the Iron Range to Duluth and the Twin Cities delivered in a fact-based and civil manner was outstanding.
But we know what is going to matter regarding the EIS is not support in numbers, but the document itself and whether it demonstrates the project can be done safely under state and federal regulatory standards. And, we are pleased to add, in a state that has some of the strictest — if not the strictest — environmental safeguards in the country.
We are extremely pleased that after years and years of development of this document that we are now at a stage where it can be in the hands of those with the expertise in the co-lead agencies — the Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to make a determination of adequacy so it can move to the permit stage.
That is where it belongs and, thankfully, where it now resides.
Yes, some opponents and preservation groups will continue their misinformation campaigns which are part of an excessive rhetoric fear campaign of damage to the environment.
The facts, however, will win out in the EIS and then permitting processes.
And the preservationist fear mongers do not hold those cards.
So let the debate and discussion on this critical issue for the very future of the Iron Range and the overall good of Minnesota continue with vigor.
It is good and healthy. Even if some in the media just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the strong support for the project.