Monday, December 9, 2013

Sulphuric Acid in the Land of Ten-Thousand Lakes


Actually, it's more like 15,000 lakes, but ten-thousand is a nice even number with a long history, which rings. People remember it. I grew up on the shore of Lake Carlos, one of a chain of lakes in west-central Minnesota, where three major ecosystems come together: the Eastern deciduous, the prairie and the northern spruce and pine. I am old enough to remember a comparatively sleepy lake, more fish houses on the ice in winter, than boats in the summer. Boats the last two decades inundating the lake, followed closely by zebra mussels. The usual residential “home” building orgy. They say silver carp are coming, to extinct native fish.


If that isn't insult enough, the polluting of the sacred waters of this state, a Canadian company named Poly-Met wants to open a copper-nickel sulfide mine, in northern Minnesota, not far from the beloved Boundary Waters Wilderness. There is a boom-worthy amount of copper-nickel, they say, and there are a dozen corporations or more, many of them international, lining up behind Poly-Met, to pick at the carcass of the iron-ore Boom, that went mostly bust.

The trouble is, these copper-nickel deposits are tucked in sulfide, which turns into sulphuric acid in contact with air and water, leeching thereafter, wherever water will go. The waters have heretofore been more pristine, in the northern part of the state, less population, less top soil, less farming.

What we know is, and everyone involved acknowledges, including Polymet, it is something like a 20-year potential boom. Water flowing from these sites, containing sulphuric acid and heavy metals, has to be filtered by reverse osmosis. If you have ever bought a gallon of such water, you know it is something like $2/gallon (and they don't start with sulphuric acid in the base.) The trouble again is, this would have to go on for something like 200-500 years.

Five-hundred years is 25 generations. More than twice as long as America has been a Nation. Anyone care to ask what they have to say about filtering sulphuric acid from a few hundred million gallons of water from a dozen or more sites, every year, for 450 years? I can say that I speak for them, when I say they would rather not. They tell me, most of that time, they won't be able to. Even if they could, why should they have to? Who are you....

Polymet readily acknowledges, that mining will take place for 20 years, and filtering of waters will have to take place for 200 years, in their recently released environmental assessment. You can be sure if they are saying 200, it will be longer. What poverty of care for the earth or even our children or their children, we show, what delusion, to take seriously such a corporation when they assert they will be around even 40 years from now, to manage their mess, 20 years after income from the mine has ceased to flow? What madness is this, to think that after 40 years when all the principle players in this are dead or dying, the people in the midst of life then will be happy to clean up, for the whole of their lives, OUR mess?

Not that I am surprised, this being up for debate, those with the most to gain of course making no mention of such generational responsibility. “Why would we pollute this place? We live here?” False premises – you ARE going to pollute the place, as soon as you start drilling, and it will not stop until the whole thing is naturally played out, 500 years after you open that wound. You won't and really can't stop that, any more than anyone is going to remove the zebra mussel from Lake Carlos. If you are going to move boats from one infested lake to a clean one in a different watershed, you can't stop the spread. If you don't mine you won't pollute.

But what does anyone expect, in a state where we are holding nuclear material by the hundred ton, on a flood-plain island in the Mississippi River (Prairie Island), if we are talking generational injustice? Anyone care to ask what posterity would have to say about that?

Everybody of course knows this is WRONG. But when money is involved, nothing is sacred, and nothing else matters. The only thing in the country that is truly holy, is the Dollar (but even that now, we have defiled.)

All of this against the bank-drop of the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Partnership trade pacts, negotiated in secret, attempted to be fast-tracked into law without consulting Congress, by the Obama Administration. If the rumors about these trade pacts are true, mom who's toddler jumps in the creek and is burned by sulphuric acid, can go talk to that corporate tribunal in Brussels, if she has a problem (or presumably, similar corporate minions stateside.) Brussels tribunal is not going to support local concerns, over Intl corporate “persons.” Leeching sulphuric acid into the waters will be effectively legal (just as it is currently legal that the Feds can disappear the protesters, if they deem them threats to “national security”. Seriously, is there a greater threat to national security now, than corporations, central and TBTF banks, gov run amok?)

But then, if the rumors are true and America loses reserve-currency status of the Dollar, people will be begging for economic progress even if that means sulphuric acid in the waters, and all of this will be fast-tracked, to hell with anything but making it like it was when credit flowed in the streets.

But you can't go back. You can't get the zebra mussel out of Lake Carlos once it's there, you can't get back the reserve-currency status of the Dollar once you've lost it, you can't really fix Prairie Island nuclear facility once it has gone critical, and you can't really prevent sulphuric acid from leeching into the waters once you've opened up a sulfide mine.

Which is why these nickel-copper sulfide mines cannot open. And there is a chance yet, to prevent them. The State of MN is taking comments, holding meetings. Please, let everyone know about it. Use every channel. Be like water with the message. This sulphuric acid could leech into the Great Lakes, so this is an issue for the entire watershed, on both sides of the Intl border. This can be stopped. It is only one thing, in a long list of grievances, increasing pressure on the ecosystems of the earth, but it's an important one. If we defile the waters of the Land of Ten-Thousand Lakes, this way, what hope is there, after the indifference that surrounds the Fukushima debacle, that this will not cascade, this defiling, everywhere on earth, everywhere in America? There is already a very lengthy list of lands that remain defiled, that remain poisonous, that next to nothing is being done about.

Human beings are 70% water. What we taint the waters with, we become. Treating the waters as sacred, we heal Life.

There are 25 generations, waiting. Speak up.

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