Learn from the Brazil Tailings Dam Tragedy – Act Today to Protect Minnesota

The Vale corporation mine tailings dam disaster in Brazil is another example of the terrible danger posed by the failure of mine tailings waste dams. Now there are 157 people confirmed dead in Minas Gerais, Brazil, with 182 people still missing.

This fall, Minnesota’s DNR approved PolyMet’s permit for a 252-foot tall dam and a 1000-acre polluted lake on top of copper-nickel tailings. PolyMet’s tailings dam would be upstream of the Fond du Lac reservation, the city of Duluth and Lake Superior.

PolyMet’s dam would be built on top of an abandoned iron ore tailings basin, with an unstable base of tailings, peat, and slimes. One of the engineers hired by DNR to review PolyMet’s proposal said “a lake on top of a pile of sand is inherently unstable, and irresponsible.”

Please call new Governor Tim Walz at 651-201-3400 today and also use the electronic comment form below.

Please call the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at 651-296-6157, press #6, and ask that they connect you to the new DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.

In your calls to the Governor and Commissioner, here are some points you may want to make:

  1. This week’s tailings dam in Brazil is one more warning that Minnesota’s rush to approve PolyMet’s tailings dam creates an irresponsible risk to Minnesota’s water and our people. Please suspend the PolyMet permit and examine safer alternatives to PolyMet’s tailings dam.
  2. We are learning now that the DNR’s own consulting engineers had concerns about PolyMet’s tailings design. Please let Minnesota have a public contested case hearing so that an impartial judge can hear the expert evidence and help us choose a safe alternative.
  3. Many experts have proposed safer ways for PolyMet to store its tailings – taking out the water and then storing the tailings in lined pits or on a stable lined foundation. We want full transparency and a full evaluation of alternatives to PolyMet’s proposed unstable wet tailings basin.

Please feel free to edit and add to the comments below to Governor Walz and Commissioner Strommen to make sure they reflect your views.