Image associated with Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on Twin Metals’ Renewed Federal Mineral Leases

Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on Twin Metals’ Renewed Federal Mineral Leases

Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on Twin Metals’ Renewed Federal Mineral Leases

Better In Our Back Yard is excited to hear of the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to renew federal mineral leases for Twin Metals Minnesota. Before Twin Metals can go through a rigorous state and federal environmental review process, they must submit a plan of operation. Today’s decision by the Bureau of Land Management is a crucial step in making it possible for Twin Metals to submit their plan of operation.

To date, Twin Metals has invested over $450 million into the Northeastern Minnesota region and their mine is estimated to create 650 family supporting jobs that will lead to another estimated 1,200 spin-off jobs while the mine is operation.

Better In Our Back Yard looks forward supporting Twin Metals as the company pursues the crucial permitting phases in accordance with our regulatory and environmental standards, while contributing to the local economy through direct and indirect job growth in Northeastern Minnesota. We know that we can do it better, right here, in our backyard.

Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on Walz Line 3 Replacement Project Decision

Better In Our Back Yard is disappointed to hear of Governor Walz’s decision to continue the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s appeal of the certificate of need for the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project.

After a four year review, the Line 3 Replacement Project’s certificate of need was approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in June of 2018. A certificate of need is a legal document required before any proposed acquisitions, expansions or creations of facilities are allowed.

The decision to continue Minnesota Department of Commerce’s appeal of the certificate of need could further delay a private investment of up to $2.6 billion into northern Minnesota’s region, $19.5 million in increased property tax revenue, living wage jobs for 6,500 workers, an upgrade to an aging 60 year old pipeline that will be crucial in decreasing environmental risks and be exceptional in the safe transportation of crude oil.

Better In Our Back Yard will proudly continue to support the Line 3 Replacement Project moving forward, because we know that industrial development is done better here, in our backyard.

Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on PolyMet Permit News

PolyMet just took another huge step toward changing the future of Northern Minnesota. After thorough scientific review, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued PolyMet with water and air quality permits today and certified the company’s pending Section 404 Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), a requirement of the Clean Water Act. This decision is great news for our state, as the NorthMet Project stands to create hundreds of good-paying jobs for hardworking Minnesotans.

This decision means PolyMet has one major permit left to receive. The company is awaiting a decision from the Corps regarding wetland mitigation, compensation and reclamation, as well as additional local permits and approvals.

PolyMet continues to set the global standard for responsible mining. Better In Our Back Yard is proud to have PolyMet in Minnesota because we know we can do it here – better – in our backyard.


For additional comment, contact Kurt Doran, Better In Our Back Yard Chair.

PolyMet Mining Permit Granted – Good News for Minnesota

Change is in the air, Minnesota. Can you feel it? It’s more than just the inevitability of winter. With the DNR’s recent decision to grant PolyMet with a Permit to Mine and all subsequent DNR permits, we are one step closer to opening the state’s first copper-nickel mine. At Better In Our Back Yard, we are excited for what this means for our state and for those who live and work on the Iron Range.

Firstly, it means years of hard work and dedication are finally paying off. The PolyMet team has worked tirelessly for over a decade to get this right. There were late nights of pouring over details and long hours in the office planning and preparing hundreds of thousands of document pages for the DNR and their independent contractors to review and analyze. When aspects of the project were questioned or challenged, the team dove back in to reevaluate and make sure everything would meet or exceed Minnesota’s strict standards. The PolyMet team has proven that the NorthMet Project will operate safely while protecting human health and Minnesota’s environment.

Secondly, the DNR’s decision to issue a Permit to Mine means good-paying jobs are on the horizon. The NorthMet Project will bring 360 mining jobs to local communities and will support over a thousand jobs in related industries. The construction required to begin operations requires two million hours of work, and the NorthMet Project itself is expected to be in operation for a minimum of two decades. These jobs are essential for continuing the way of life on the Iron Range and will aid in revitalizing cities that have been struggling for many years.

Lastly, this monumental decision means the opportunity to show the world how to operate a non-ferrous copper-nickel and precious metals mining project both safely and responsibly is upon us. Countless hours were spent ensuring the environmental impact of this project will be minimized, and every inch of impacted land will be mitigated and reclaimed and left better than when the project started. PolyMet takes their responsibility seriously when it comes to protecting and managing water, minimizing land disturbance and preserving wetland areas.

Congratulations, PolyMet. We’re behind you, and we’re looking forward to the next steps in the process. The whole world is watching. It’s time to mine.

Make an Impact with Move Mining

As northern Minnesotans, we understand the value and impact that mining has on our region and the world. Natural resources fuel the lives and livelihoods of not only the people who retrieve them from the Earth, but also of those who use the finished products. While we recognize the importance of mining, some community members still struggle to maintain a positive outlook on industry.

Do you have a big idea that could help to change the negative perception of mining? Now’s your chance to share it, and you could win $5,000! Move Mining is an event with the goal of promoting the power of mining and educating people worldwide about this industry that impacts every aspect of our lives. An online competition that leads to a Shark Tank-style event, Move Mining gives each participant the chance to get creative, work with a team and make a big change.

Every person reading this post has talents or skills that would be beneficial to a team. By combining the knowledge and background of friends, coworkers and mining professionals, teams of up to six people ages 10 and older, are able to conceive and execute concepts that will make a global and lasting impact.

How does this happen? It all comes down to an idea. Brainstorm with your team to come up with a concept that has potential to show people the importance of mining and the positive impact it has on the world. Once you have a clear understanding and vision of your concept, create a promotional, three-minute long video summarizing your big idea. Videos must be submitted online by October 14, 2018. After video submissions, the top five finalist teams are invited to present their ideas at the Shark Tank-style Move Mining event at the SME Annual Conference and Expo on February 25, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.

The first place winner after the Move Mining event will win $5,000 and will receive personalized advice from a leader in their field of innovation, facilitated by the SME Director of Marketing and Communications, on how to make their concept become a reality.

Are you interested in participating in the Move Mining competition? Learn more here:

Supporting Clean Water AND the Repeal of the Wild Rice Standard

Clean water is a shared value of all Minnesotans. Our 10,000 lakes are a reason many of us live here. They’re a point of pride, providing beauty and recreation as well as a key cultural resource for our Native American brothers and sisters.

That’s why at first glance, news articles about eliminating a standard meant to protect wild rice can be eyebrow raising to say the least. Why would anyone introduce legislation to remove a wild rice standard, let alone support that legislation? The reason is because the standard doesn’t actually protect wild rice.

The current wild rice standard limits sulfate in the water to 10 mg/L. “Current” is an oxymoron when it comes to this standard, because it is decades old and based on even older information. The standard is not based on modern science. Instead, it is based largely on field observations from the 1940s. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s own modern-day research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, found no impact to wild rice seedlings until sulfate levels reached at least 1,600 mg/L – 160 times the current limit. What’s more, the science behind the standard fails to take into account some of the largest threats to wild rice, including water elevation and invasive species.

This standard is the only one of its kind in the United States. No other state that grows wild rice has a standard like this, and no Minnesota legislators ever reviewed or voted on this standard. Instead, it was created when Minnesota created the Pollution Control Agency and then adopted (by default) the federal Clean Water Act in the 1970s. It was largely forgotten soon thereafter. In fact, the standard has never been enforced, though wild rice continues to grow in Minnesota.

Wild rice was hardly a point of contention in Minnesota until 10 years ago when anti-industry groups dusted off the never-enforced standard to fight proposed copper nickel mines in Minnesota. The thing is, the proposed copper nickel mines have planned to build water treatment facilities to comply with the 10 mg/L standard. At this point, after all this debate, it’s not even proven that wild rice is affected by the enforcement of the standard. Instead, it is our 130-year-old iron mining industry and our communities’ wastewater treatment facilities – and in turn our wastewater treatment bills – that are most affected by the enforcement of this obsolete standard.

Estimates by businesses and municipalities across the state show the cost to comply with the outdated wild rice standard could be billions of dollars. This is a dollar amount that could close plants and cause our wastewater bills to increase by up to 200% in some communities – all for a standard not yet proven to protect wild rice habitat in Minnesota.

We know that environmental activists and supporters of responsible Minnesota industry all want to protect wild rice. As supporters of responsible industry, we are also supporters of sensible regulations that are feasible, based on sound science, and actually protect the environment. However, this particular regulation is anything but common sense. Though likely well intentioned, it is neither feasible nor is it based on sound science, and there is still no proof it does anything to protect or enhance the wild rice habitat in Minnesota.

These are the reasons that Better In Our Back Yard applauds the recent action taken by both the House and Senate to pass legislation removing the current wild rice sulfate standard. This removal makes way for Minnesota to go back to the drawing board and explore all the mitigating factors that affect our wild rice habitat – to make sure we use the most current and best scientific technology we have at our disposal, so our clean water and important state grain remain not only sources of food and culture but sources of pride for generations of Minnesotans to come.

With this in mind, we urge Governor Mark Dayton to sign this legislation into law, and we encourage you to send a letter supporting his signature.

Write him at: 130 State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155

Email him at:

Call him at: 651-201-3400 or 1-800-657-3717

Fax him at: 651-797-1850

Tweet him at: @govmarkdayton


Mining Innovation at the 2018 SME Annual Conference & Expo

When people think about “innovation,” they usually think of the tech companies on the West Coast with their apps and their gadgets. They don’t usually think about the mining companies. Instead, people often think that miners are out with pickaxes and shovels digging up ore and panning for gold –  and frankly, shows like “Gold Rush” have not helped our industry with those perceptions.

In reality, mining is a high-tech industry that requires innovation in several operational aspects – from water treatment to ore processing to dispatch systems and beyond. The mining sector craves the opportunity to optimize processes and controls to maintain a predictable quality of product while remaining profitable on the market. How does the industry progress? How do we learn about innovative technologies that are being used halfway around the world? Where do we see the latest and greatest equipment that has the potential to change the way we operate?

The 2018 Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) Annual Conference and Expo, that’s where.

This year’s conference was in OUR backyard for the very first time – held in Minneapolis during the last week of February.

Innovation was evident with technical sessions and short courses that focused on recent research, progressive technologies and the social aspects of mining. Mining is a way of life in northeast Minnesota as well as in many countries around the world. Just like at home, many communities thrive due to mining. However, there are pockets of the world with valuable mineral resources where these minerals are extracted without regulation. These instances are key opportunities for well-established mining companies to make a significant difference in the lives of the people in the region.

A Closer Look at Illegal Gold Mining in Ghana

Ghana is a perfect example of an area that would benefit from the expertise of a legitimate mining company. As presented in a technical session (one of more than 600 sessions), a practice called “galamsey” (the illegal gathering and selling of gold) commonly occurs in Ghana. Gold mining may be illegal, but many still mine because it is a way to make a living and support their families. Heartbreakingly, this work is unregulated, dangerous and an ecological disaster in the making. Rivers and streams are becoming polluted with mercury (used to extract the gold from the ore) and sediment. The lack of regulations has caused mercury poisoning and led to dangerous working conditions. Although much work is being done to combat this issue, there is a long way to go. Mining companies working in conjunction with government officials will be key drivers in helping bring these illegal practices to an end.

This particular technical session was a great reminder of where we were as a country more than 45 years ago when the Clean Water Act was passed in the United States. It was also a good indicator of the positive influence an established mining company can bring to a mining project.

Strict Regulations Make Mining in Minnesota Strong and Sustainable

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes (and then some), our state has chosen to take environmental rules a step further, having some of the most progressive water quality standards in the nation. We have also supported successful mining operations for more than 130 years. These operations continue to advance by leaps and bounds with modern technologies that keep our process running in a safe and environmentally-conscious manner.

There is an energy and motivation that comes from being surrounded by more than 5,500 miners, suppliers, educators and regulators who are all engaged in ensuring that our industry progresses responsibly and sustainably. The 2018 SME Conference & Expo allowed attendees to recognize that we are part of a larger community who all have the same end goal – innovation, wise use of technology and a sustainable future for both the industry and the communities that support mining.

National Mining Conference Coming to Our Back Yard

Thousands of mining professionals and students from around the world will be convening in Minneapolis this week for the National Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) Conference.

The conference taking place from February 25 to 28, largely at the Minneapolis Convention Center, features an exhibit hall with more than 700 booths, more than 100 technical sessions, a symposium on North American iron ore and many other events. This is the first time this conference is being held in Minneapolis – what a great opportunity  to have right in our back yard.

Attendees come from a range of backgrounds including: metal mining, manufacturing, geology, environmental, construction, and more. All told, 49 U.S. states and 35 countries will be represented at the conference.

The conference theme, “Vision, Innovation and Identity: Step Change for a Sustainable Future,” will address the continuing need for innovation throughout the industry.

The theme and location provide a unique opportunity to showcase the past, present, and future of Minnesota’s 130+ year iron mining industry, as well as the potential for different types of mining – including, of course, copper nickel mining. Representatives from iron mining and copper nickel mining will be staffing booths, teaching technical sessions, and hosting events.

Some key Minnesota-backed events include:

  • Northern Minnesota SME Curling Reception
  • Northern Minnesota Field Trip – including tours and/or presentations of Hibbing Taconite, PolyMet, Minnesota Discovery Center, Duluth Port Authority and more
  • Move Mining Event: Move Mining is a program that stems from the idea to change or “move” the perception of mining in the public eye by encouraging individuals and teams to use their innovation and ideas, with the support of our sponsoring organizations, to share their positive messaging about mining with the world
  • Mining and Exploration Luncheon, sponsored by the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota (IMA)
  • Friends of Minnesota Reception, sponsored by Mining Minnesota, IMA, and SME’s Minnesota Chapter

Those who work in Minnesota’s mining industries have a wealth of knowledge to share on operating in a sustainable way. Minnesota has some of the strongest environmental regulations in the nation – maybe the world. Former Minnesota iron mines are now used as sources of drinking water for Iron Range cities as well as swimming and fishing lakes, and other recreation sites.

There is always more to learn, so Minnesota participants are looking forward to technical sessions, short courses, and field trips focused on environment, health and safety, energy, mineral processing, finance, and more.

To learn more about the upcoming national conference, visit or Move Mining visit .

Financial Responsibility Requirements

On December 1, 2017, the EPA Administrator signed the final rule for Financial Responsibility Requirements under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) 108(B) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry. In effect, this final rule said that there was no need for financial assurance requirements to be placed on hard rock mining companies by the federal government. The next day, most mainstream news coverage positioned the story in a way that would lead readers to believe that mining companies were not being held financially responsible for their operations or the clean-up in the event that they went bankrupt.

Fortunately, that is not the case and a deeper read into the final rule illustrates that the EPA acted judiciously in their decision and are not placing taxpayers at risk. Unfortunately, that is not the story that was shared with the general public so we’d like to share our assessment of the rule with you.

As you may have noted, this final rule came out over a month ago, so why is Better In Our Back Yard just now posting our thoughts? The main reason is that we know it takes time to review information and process it and we want to give our readers carefully thought-out responses. The final rule, in pre-published form, is 120 pages and that doesn’t even include the Technical Support. Too often in our media-driven, fast news world, we live on headlines and sound bites and we trust what we read without doing any of our own research. We owe it to you to be more nuanced and studious in our approach because we know that in finding the balance between environmental protection and economic development, a sound bite isn’t enough.

So why didn’t the EPA mandate financial assurance requirements for hard rock mining as was initially proposed? There were several drivers for that decision, so let’s take a look at a few critical ones.

Purpose of CERCLA 108(b)

The intended purpose of CERCLA regulations, also known as Superfund, is to protect taxpayers from having to clean up environmental impacts from a wide variety of industries. The rule was enacted after the public was left in a position cleaning up sites such as Love Canal. CERCLA regulations require facilities to “establish and maintain evidence of financial responsibility consistent with the degree and duration of risk associated with the production, transportation, treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous substances.” This statement of purpose is reiterated multiple times throughout the final rule because it is the level of risk that is critical to the conclusion reached by the EPA.

The EPA states that after review of existing federal and state regulatory programs as well as the mining practices at modern mines that that there is limited risk of unfunded response liabilities at currently operating facilities.

Regulatory Redundancy

The reason that there is limited risk of unfunded response liabilities is because state governments as well as federal agencies that regulate mining, including the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, have set up their own systems to regulate mining operations and ensure financial assurance requirements are met within their jurisdictions. Several states and the listed federal agencies were not in support of this regulation because it muddied the waters on the enforcement of their respective programs. The states with mining operations within them have spent decades fine-tuning their programs to reflect their distinct situations regarding type of mineral extraction and environmental settings. They are uniquely qualified to understand the risks and mitigation strategies. The EPA recognized that additional federal regulations would disrupt these state programs (as well as the other federal programs) and cause unnecessary duplication that would not provide taxpayers with any additional protection.

Lack of Financial Instruments

The financial industry that would provide the required financial instruments and services was not in support of the regulations because, as proposed, they would be at odds with relevant commercial law and practice.

So where does this leave financial assurance in Minnesota? It leaves it with the State of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that knows our backyard, that cares about our backyard and that will ensure our taxpayers are not put in a position of being responsible for environmental mitigation in our backyard.

Current Climate

Look no further than the proposed PolyMet financial assurance estimate, which could top $1 billion, that recently came from the state to know that mining companies are already held to strong standards that ensure taxpayer risk is factored into the equation. Because we can do it better, in our back yard.