Mining Company Looking for Copper Near St. Croix River Tributary

PolyMet plans to do exploratory drilling for a type of ore that poses risks to clean water.




2 minute read

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.


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4 responses to “Mining Company Looking for Copper Near St. Croix River Tributary”

  1. mark nupen Avatar

    Having lived in Arizona and Colorado, I am familiar with copper mines which are quite common there. All mines can be polluting but they are not all the same just like all sewer systems can be extremely polluting, but they don’t have to be. I would hope that we do see some references to safe mines and not just that THEY ALL ARE POLLUTING. Our rivers used to be all polluted by sewage, but now are not unless the best systems are not in place.
    Same thing with mining, not all mine systems are the same. Some are even underground with the tailings returned to underground. Some are open pit mines like the iron mines up north and now the tailings have been reforested that it is hard to see what is a natural hill and what is a converted tailings hill. Some very nice golf courses have been built within the old mine systems.
    What I am reading here is that ALL COPPER MINES ARE POLLUTERS? SO ARE ALL SEWAGE FROM OUR OWN HOUSES. We need better writing to make sense of what is going on. Articles about NOT IN MY BACKYARD are not intelligent articles. Please keep this in mind with the reporting. Copper mining is an important subject for all of us.

    1. John Harrington Avatar

      I’ve written repeatedly about the desirability of bringing “sustainable mining” to northern Minnesota. ( Minnesota’s politicians and mining companies seem more interested in appearance than substance, based on their actions last legislative session and their accommodations to frac sand mining activities over water quality. PolyMet hasn’t appeared to be terribly active in the sustainable mining sector. So I’m inclined to believe they want more of the “same old, same old.”

      1. mark nupen Avatar

        What is “Sustainable Mining”????? Never heard that one before???? Ore is finite unless techniques change to extract ore of a different type or concentration, which is done eg in oil and iron mining?? But never heard of Sustainable Mining?????

  2. Ernest Martinson Avatar
    Ernest Martinson

    While PolyMet may not need a permit in the initial search for potential profitable minerals, it should be informed of the cost since profit equals revenue minus cost. Society should be imposing a severance tax based on amount of mineral severed from the commons. A similar but smaller tax may be appropriate on overburden removed, placing an additional burden on Polymet.
    Pollution taxes should be a standard for any extractive enterprise such as mining since it will minimize pollution through the polluter pays principle. Finally, chase down all the charges with a tax on water pumped in the mining process. All these potential costs presented up front to PolyMet could deter exploratory drilling in the St. Croix watershed since PolyMet’s pocket’s are not as deep as government’s.