Duluth News Tribune, January 25, 2010
Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Environmental groups plan lawsuit for violations at old LTV site
The groups want Cliffs Natural Resources to address problems at the old LTV
tailings basin before PolyMet is allowed to add more materials on top of it.
By John Myers
Three environmental groups have filed an intent to sue Cliffs Natural
Resources for pollution violations at the tailings basin of the old LTV
Steel Taconite plant - the same tailings basin that would be used by the
proposed PolyMet copper mine.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Save Lake Superior Association and the
Indigenous Environmental Network filed the intent today that gives 60-day
notice of a lawsuit under the federal Clean Water Act.
The tailings basin, north of Hoyt Lakes, was used for taconite tailings from
the 1950s until 2001 when LTV closed. Cliffs Natural Resources inherited the
site from the former Cliffs Erie Mining Co.
PolyMet has an agreement to buy the property, but permits for the tailings
basin still are under Cliffs' name. Tailings basins are giant, diked ponds
used to hold the leftover materials after ore is processed.
The environmental groups claim that the LTV tailings basin, which is
unlined, is the source of numerous seeps and discharges of polluted water
into groundwater and surface waters, which eventually reach the Embarrass
River and on to the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.
PolyMet plans on using the same tailings basin under its proposal to mine
copper, nickel and other precious metals. It plans to use the former LTV
site for processing.
"What we're asking is that Cliffs clean up the problems that are occurring
there now before the state allows another mining operation to start dumping
on top of it,'' said Marc Fink, Duluth-based attorney for the Center for
Maureen Talarico, spokeswoman for Cliffs Natural Resources in Duluth, said
the company generally doesn't comment on pending legal matters.
The violations are on file with regulatory agencies, and are listed in the
PolyMet environmental impact statement. It's not clear why the Minnesota
Pollution Control Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency have failed
to take action to correct the issue, Fink said.
"That's why the Clean Water Act calls for these citizen lawsuits when the
regulatory agencies aren't doing their jobs,'' he said.