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Letter: Duluth is at a crossroads concerning mining

When thinking about where the energy comes from to power our society or how we will obtain the minerals associated with high technology, we find that we live in a time of paradoxes. Our region is grappling with the consequences of new proposed industrial projects. Duluth is at a crossroads, whether it be the controversial introduction of hard rock sulfide mining to our north or the possibility of oil produced with hydraulic fracturing crossing prime farmland to our south.

We have an opportunity to interact with two of Minnesota’s most effective change-makers on the topic of extreme energy extraction during an event called Land-based Economics vs. Extreme Extraction & Fossil Fuels. The event happens on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the College of St. Scholastica’s Science Auditorium from 6 to 9 p.m.

Celebrated Ojibwe economist and author Winona LaDuke will be joined by Paula Maccabee, one Minnesota’s best environmental attorneys. LaDuke will discuss the expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline, which already carries oil from Alberta’s tar sands, and the yet-to-be-built Sandpiper pipeline which potentially crosses traditional sovereign Native territory, sensitive wetlands and farmland. Maccabee will present on PolyMet’s proposed open-pit sulfide mine currently in the environmental review period.

This event will be both a look at the big picture and a call to action. The public is offered false choices about whether it is preferable to move tar sands and fracked oil by railcar or pipeline, when the real question should be whether we want to take the risk at all.

Minnesota is gripped by the debate over sulfide mining, whose proponents tell us to “support the science.” PolyMet’s environmental review documents are in disarray because they failed to listen to tribal experts who told them they’d miscalculated the flow rate of the Partridge River.

Against a backdrop of environmental degradation and climate change, there is a lesson to be had about listening to Minnesota’s original inhabitants.

Alyssa Hoppe