A Canadian mining company behind a controversial copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota is now looking for mining potential in the St. Croix River area. PolyMet Mining Co. has confirmed it plans to drill exploratory holes along the Snake River east of Pine City.
The Pine City Pioneer first reported that PolyMet plans to drill three holes in the coming weeks in an area just south of the Snake River. These holes would provide rock samples that could be analyzed by geologists to understand the mining potential.
The company does not need any permits for this initial step of searching for potentially profitable minerals, and because the activities will happen on private land. If PolyMet finds significant deposits and wanted to mine them, environmental review and permits would be required by the state and federal government. PolyMet has been involved in such a review for its proposed mine in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota for several years. The company has been forced to revise its draft environmental impact statement multiple times to better address pollution concerns.
PolyMet expects to finish its environmental review for the northern Minnesota project this winter, and seek permits for the mine in 2016.
The type of mining PolyMet is pursuing is the top polluting industry in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and presents far greater risks to lakes and rivers than iron and taconite mining. The chemicals in copper-bearing ore can create sulfuric acid when exposed to air and water, and have caused catastrophic pollution in water bodies around the world.
This is the first time a modern mining company has drilled for copper in the Pine City area, but it has long been known to have deposits. One road in the area is even called Copper Canyon Road. Two prospectors drilled shafts in the area in the 1880s, though no mine ever came of it.