Mining agency relents, gives grant to Fond du Lac for clean water

    Leonidas Overlook near Eveleth. Courtesy Ironrange.org.

    A state mining board commissioner today approved a $250,000 grant to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to provide clean drinking water, after the mining board tabled the grant, citing the band’s opposition to copper-nickel mining in sensitive watersheds.

    The Reformer reported Wednesday on the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board’s June 10 discussion over whether to give the grant for a new water tower to serve Mahnomen and Brookston.

    Citing the band’s support of a wild rice sulfate standard and support for a lawsuit against potential pollution from a controversial PolyMet copper-nickel mining plan, Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, objected to the grant. Tomassoni made a motion to table the request, delaying installation.

    But the board serves in a mere advisory role, which means the final decision was up to IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips, who approved the grant.

    “After gathering additional information from our funding partners, I am pleased to move forward with this important infrastructure project to provide clean drinking water for the residents of Mahnomen and Brookston,” Phillips said in a press release. “The project meets our program guidelines and aligns with our mission and vision to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota.”

    The IRRRB is a state agency funded with mining proceeds for public works and economic development projects.