Fond du Lac Follies: Never met a Polymet I liked

By Jim Northrup
News From Indian Country May 2011

I first heard about the proposed Polymet open pit mine some years ago and just as I feared it is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.

I hear they plan to use a sulfide mixture to leach out the precious metals they find once they start crushing rocks. As I understand it, the process will require a lot of water. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day by one estimate. And where does the water sulfide mixture go once they are done leaching? It goes into huge holding ponds. The holding ponds, like anything else made by man, can break and leak. Where does the water/sulfide mixture go then? Into the bogs, creeks, and rivers that are downhill from the holding ponds.

One of the rivers near the site is the Cloquet River that flows into the St. Louis River. The river that defines our northern and eastern boundaries on this Reservation. Where does the water/sulfide mixture go after that? Into the fish, the deer, the plants and animals that drink from that river. The water could then enter my personal food chain because I eat fish, deer meat, and wild rice and other plants.

With that in mind I decided to attend the mining forum held at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. The forum participants were from Polymet, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wild Life Commission and the Fond du Lac Reservation.

I went because I wanted to know who would be trying to poison me with a water/sulphide mixture. I wanted to hear what the people from Polymet would say.

A representative from GLFWIC started by explaining how mining works and showed pictures and maps from various other mines in the 1837/1854 ceded territories. Here on the Rez we are downstream from Polymet.

We learned more about mining from Fond du Lac’s environmentalist Nancy Sthuldt. We also learned how Fond du Lac would be involved in making sure the mining operation was done without poisoning me.

Brad Moore, Polymet, was next up and he told the Polymet story.

Finally, Chair Karen Diver spoke about how Polymet would have to meet all environmental regulations and what Fond du Lac would do to protect us and our resources. Her talk was stopped by bursts of applause from the crowd.

The evening ended with questions from the audience. Everyone was invited to the front of the room to say what they were thinking. As for me, after listening all evening to all sides at the forum I came to the conclusion that I never met a Polymet I liked.


Finally it was time to tap maple trees. I have been watching for the right time and sugar bush is finally here. The thermometer registered the right temps; the trees had a melted circle around the base of the trees. The only thing missing was the noisy crows in the morning. I tapped two test trees in my yard to help me watch for sugar bush. After a couple days of checking Pat noticed the sap was dripping.

Belatedly I began hearing the crows. We got to get together and circumcise our watches so we all start at the same time.

I rounded up my sugar bush crew and we went to the woods. The crew knew what to do and we tapped some trees. I heard the plink, plank, plunk sound of the dripping sap.

It is always family time at the sugar bush; I had two sons, one daughter in law and one nephew. One was drilling, one was cleaning the drilled holes, one was tapping in a tap and the last was placing a milk jug to catch the dripping sap.

The second day of tapping was kinda like the first day. We waded through the knee deep snow moving from maple tree to maple tree at our sugar bush. The dripping sap made the friendly sound again as it fell into the jugs.

This time we made a startling discovery, Oscar was running in the snow and the snow was cutting his tender little wiener dog feet. We were also afraid he might sneak off into the woods and join the local wolf pack as the new alpha male. He is grounded from the sugar bush until the snow melts. The dripping from the taps will continue until then usually.


Question Of The Month

Q.....Is your bush dripping?

A.....Never mind you dirty old man


The author trail is very interesting. I have been interviewed about my new book Anishinaabe Syndicated on radio, TV, and in the newspapers, The high point so far was a reading at Birchbark Books in Minneapolis. I met old friends and like to think I made new ones.


The views expressed in this column belong to the writer alone, they are not meant to represent this newspaper, this Rez, Karen Diver, Polymet or anyone else. Comments and bingo packs can be sent to FdL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN 55780-0016. email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. facebook also.