The most serious environmental issue in northern Minnesota’s nonferrous mining debate is water. (And yes, the environment is not the only part of that story). Though opinions on how projects like PolyMet or Twin Metals will affect the ground water of northern Minnesota vary at this time, you can’t ignore the fact that one of the continent’s largest fresh water sources is a part of the conversation.
Maybe another way of looking at the issue is in the context of this story about Nestle’s efforts to tap fresh water in Oregon for bottling and distribution. There are many arguments, for and against, but these conversations will continue to circle closer to us in northern Minnesota. They will never go away. Water is as much a commodity of the future as minerals or tillable land. It’s not just that we need to avoid spoiling the water, though we certainly do. It’s that we must firmly establish who owns the water.