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DNR, MPCA choices will say a lot about Gov.-elect Dayton’s ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ campaign pledge

Mesabi Daily News
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In the next several days, two appointments by Gov.-elect Mark Dayton will determine in large part whether his resurrection of former Gov. Rudy Perpich's pledge of "jobs, jobs, jobs" will be more than just a campaign promise when it comes to employment in the areas of resources.

If those selected to head the Department of Natural Resources and the state Pollution Control Agency have a background tied to environmental groups or a bureaucracy that were more interested in trying to block mining or logging or recreational activities than to create jobs or more tourism then it will be a sad message, indeed.

Minnesota has in place fine environmental safety standards. We protect our forests and lakes and rivers well. But just as individuals can be over-medicated, states and the federal government can be over-regulated.

And that is definitely the case when it comes to the state DNR and MPCA. These are the agencies that are crucial to determining the progression and fate of resource-based ventures.

The whining of those who really want to sidetrack and eventually push the button of destruction on mining and logging as viable industries in the state is real tiring. And when they oppose multiple-use of federal and state lands it gets even more ridiculous.

Those who use the lands and waters of northern Minnesota are good stewards of the state's beautiful environment. They don't have to voice the talking points of extreme groups to be true environmentalists. Nor do they have the deep pockets of the groups that seek delay and delay and delay through the bureaucracies and then the courts to derail projects that would create "jobs, jobs, jobs."

The rules and regulations are in place to keep the companies in line should they journey out of acceptable practices. And it will be the directors of the DNR and MPCA to ensure they don't.

But the heads of those two agencies also need to be advocates for jobs. After all, that was the No. 1 priority of their boss, the governor-elect, on the campaign trail.

We have no reason to doubt that Mark Dayton has been swayed by others in his transition effort from his campaign promise when it comes to resource-based jobs.

But these two upcoming appointments will be telling regarding that issue.

Steve Morse: Minnesotans back mining — if it’s safe

Star Tribune
Steve Morse
December 26, 2010

Minnesota has a great opportunity to produce a unique legacy of job creation combined with public health protection as it examines a new kind of mining — nonferrous sulfide mining — that has been proposed for northeast Minnesota.

This is not a choice between jobs and public health. Minnesotans want and deserve both — and that's what 701 voters told us in a postelection poll conducted Nov. 16 to 21 by a bipartisan national polling team.

However, Minnesota's new Eighth District congressman-elect, Chip Cravaack, boasted in a Dec. 14 Star Tribune article that his first meeting after the election was with executives of the mining firm PolyMet and that one of his top priorities is to rejuvenate mining.

We urge Cravaack to proceed with caution.

We suggest that instead of holding his first meeting with the leaders of a large, foreign-owned company, he should listen first to his constituents.

Mining is a traditional part of Minnesota's economy, producing jobs and important materials.

However, we must make sure that sulfide mining — which is different from our traditional iron-ore mining — is done without releasing its long-lasting toxic waste that threatens to contaminate everything from fish to wild rice to drinking water.

As taxpayers, we don't want to be stuck with the bill to clean up the pollution from sulfide mining.

In other states where sulfide mining has occurred, the result has been pollution that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up over dozens of years.

We don't want Minnesota's experience to be like that of other states — especially when these new mines have the potential to pollute nearby lakes and rivers, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior.

Our statewide polling shows that Minnesotans support conditions for sulfide mining that will protect our lakes, rivers, streams and public health, as well as jobs and taxpayers' wallets:

•An overwhelming 85 percent favor requiring mining companies to prove they have the financial means to clean up pollution from their mines before they begin operation.

These results hold strong across every congressional district in the state — including Cravaack's Eighth District.

In fact, in the Eighth, 86 percent of voters want this condition, compared with 79 percent in the Twin Cities' often-more-liberal Fourth and Fifth Districts, where residents have not had the firsthand experience of working with large mining companies.

The support is also bipartisan: 85 percent voters across the state who say they supported Mark Dayton for governor and 87 percent of those who say they voted for Tom Emmer want this protection.

•On another question, a strong 81 percent of Minnesota voters statewide — and 82 percent in the Eight District — also support better enforcement of existing regulations on mine operators and don't want those regulations weakened or rolled back.

The support for both of these measures holds true regardless of political party, gender or age. Minnesotans know that reducing environmental safeguards to allow mining company expansion is not a good tradeoff.

In a state where we so highly value clean water, it only makes sense for mining companies to demonstrate credible financial means to clean up toxic pollution from their mines before they begin operations; that existing state laws to protect the environment, public health and taxpayers' wallets are fully enforced, and that recommended safeguards are implemented.

As large new mining projects move forward, we must meet the expectations of our citizens and create a heritage of jobs and clean water for Minnesotans today and tomorrow.

Steve Morse is executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a statewide coalition of 80 nonprofit conservation and environmental organizations.

 

WCCO AM – Interview with Frank Ongaro of Mining Minnesota

Click here to listen to the interview.

Range copper firms atop ‘mega-deposit’ to merge – Duluth Metals Ltd. would expand its already vast reserves of copper, nickel and precious metal ores near the BWCA

Star Tribune
David Shaffer
December 20, 2010

Duluth Metals Ltd., one of the two companies planning to mine copper and nickel near Ely, Minn., announced a tentative agreement Monday to acquire the other company and its adjacent ore deposits.

The proposed acquisition of Franconia Minerals Corp. in a cash-stock deal valued at $75 million would consolidate control over what one executive called a "mega-deposit" of ore. The deal could result in a far bigger mine operating for up to a century just a few miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

"This allows us to build a more robust mine that will have great jobs for a really long time," Duluth Metals President Vern Baker said in an interview.

Toronto-based Duluth Metals, which already has a vast ore body called Nokomis, would gain control of Franconia deposits to the north, northeast and southwest of it. In addition, Duluth Metals would gain control of a valuable 40-acre parcel at the heart of its Nokomis ore body. The ore in that parcel alone could be worth more than $1 billion, experts said.

The deal would solidify the position of Chilean mining company Antofagasta PLC, which already has a stake in the Duluth Metals venture, called Twin Metals Minnesota, that will develop the mine. Antofagasta will help finance the transaction with approximately $29.5 million, and would increase its stake in the parent company.

Lacking an international mining company as a partner, Spokane, Wash.-based Franconia had the least capital of the three most active non-ferrous exploration companies on the Iron Range. In September, Franconia said it was exploring strategic alternatives, and this month borrowed $1 million in a short-term credit facility. Franconia also was facing a mid-January deadline to pay nearly $1.4 million on a land-option deal.

Franconia's board unanimously approved the Duluth Metals takeover, but the deal requires two-thirds acceptance by voting stockholders. One stockholder, Ernest Lehmann, a geologist who formerly served on Franconia's board, said he has reservations about the deal, mainly because the price seems low.

"It is an incredibly complicated deal," said Lehman, holder of about 4 percent of the company's shares. He said he will take time to study it before commenting further. His company, Beaver Bay Inc., separately holds a 30 percent share of the mineral rights on the Franconia tracts.

Patrick E. Donohue, who has advised Franconia and Duluth Metals on other deals, said the price being offered for Franconia is "way too cheap" and that the big winner will be Antofagasta.

"It's a great deal for Antofagasta — that's who's really behind this," said Donahue, who is CEO of the capital markets advisory firm DealPen Minneapolis. "If you look at where all the money is coming from, it's all from Antofagasta."

Franconia stockholders can take 88 cents or 0.328 Duluth shares for each of their shares. But total cash and shares available are capped at about 50-50. That means, for example, that if Franconia stockholders overwhelmingly opt for Duluth Metals stock, there wouldn't be enough to go around, and they would have to take some cash.

For Duluth Metals and its Twin Metals joint venture, the combined holdings will total more than 25,000 acres and mining rights for copper, nickel and precious metals. Antofagasta has committed to fund $130 million in expenses as the company conducts a pre-feasibility study expected to take a year or more, the company said.

The Twin Metals mine would be underground, and many times larger than the controversial open-pit PolyMet Mining copper-nickel mine proposed in Babbitt, Minn. After five years of environmental review, that project still is trying to address concerns about the risk of water pollution from sulfides in the ore.

Baker, of Duluth Metals, said it will take $1.5 billion to $2 billion to develop the Twin Metals mine, which could employ 1,500 workers. Copper and nickel would be processed on the site, possibly at a new plant near the old Dunka iron ore pit, he added.

The project will be designed for 30 to 40 years of operation, but enough ore exists to keep mining for decades longer, he said.

The size worries Betsy Daub, policy director of Friends of the Boundary Water Wilderness, an advocacy group. "What it does is create a mining juggernaut at the edge of the wilderness, alongside waters that flow into the wilderness," she said.

But Baker said the combined venture means that one mining operation, rather than two, would exist in the area. "We are quite cognizant of the environmental challenges," he added. "We think that, technically, … we have everything it will take so that we can meet all the standards and build a state-of-the-art mine."

If the Franconia sale goes through, one immediate winner would be the state development agency Iron Range Resources. Two years ago, as part of a loan-grant incentive, the agency received warrants to purchase 2.5 million Franconia shares at 75 cents. Under the cash offer, that would be a $350,000 gain for the agency.

Franconia shares closed up 16 cents, or 26 percent, to 79 cents in U.S. trading Monday. Duluth Metals shares fell 4 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $2.68. Antofagasta shares rose 40 cents to $48.10.

Twin Metals MN Statement on Duluth Metals-Franconia Minerals Announcement – Potential acquisition is good news for Minnesota jobs, economy and environment

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Twin Metals Minnesota LLC released the following statement regarding today's announcement that Duluth Metals Limited (TSX: DM) (TSX: DM.U) has entered into an Arrangement Agreement to acquire Franconia Minerals (TSX: FRA). Duluth Metals is partner with Antofagasta PLC in the Twin Metals Minnesota joint venture, which was formed to pursue the development and operation of a copper, nickel and platinum group metals mining project within the Nokomis Deposit in northeastern Minnesota. Franconia's principal assets are a 70 percent interest in the Birch Lake, Maturi and Spruce Road deposits, much of which are contiguous to the Nokomis Deposit. The Duluth Metals' acquisition of Franconia is valued at CAD $76.7 million in cash and stock. Upon approval by Franconia shareholders and finalization of the acquisition, Franconia's assets will be transferred to Twin Metals, increasing Twin Metals' overall qualified resources to in excess of 1 billion tonnes.

Statement from Juan Andres Morel, CEO, Twin Metals Minnesota LLC:

"Duluth Metals' potential acquisition of Franconia is exciting news for the vibrant future of copper-nickel mining here in Minnesota. Combining these contiguous properties and mineral assets under common ownership will allow for a larger scale, more efficient and synergetic development of future mining projects – providing more Minnesota jobs more quickly, with a more efficient joint state/federal environmental review process and greater environmental protection. The results of this acquisition will be extremely positive for Minnesota's economy, jobs and environment. Twin Metals Minnesota looks forward to bringing our international mining expertise and commitment to environmental stewardship to the responsible development of Minnesota's mineral resources."

To see the Duluth Metals Limited/Franconia Minerals news release: http://tinyurl.com/28du8ph

A conference call with senior management of Duluth Metals Limited and Franconia Minerals for the investment community and media is scheduled for: 9:00 a.m. CST, December 20, 2010.

To participate in the call, please dial five minutes prior to the call:

US/Canada Dial-in #: (888) 231-8191

Int'l/Local Dial-In #: (647) 427-7450

WebcastURL: http://www.newswire.ca/en/webcast/viewEvent.cgi?eventID=3349060

Juan Andres Morel, CEO, Twin Metals Minnesota, is available for media interviews. Please contact Ben Maurer, Weber Shandwick, at the phone number or e-mail address shown above.

About Twin Metals Minnesota LLC Twin Metals Minnesota, LLC, is a joint venture involving partners Duluth Metals Limited and Antofagasta PLC. Announced in Jan. 2010, Twin Metals was formed to pursue the development and operation of a copper, nickel and platinum group metals (non-ferrous) mining project in northeastern Minn.

For more information on Duluth Metals Limited: http://www.duluthmetals.com/s/Home.asp

News Release: Duluth Metals and Franconia Minerals Enter into Arrangement Agreement; Consolidates Position in the Duluth Complex, Minnesota

TORONTO, Ontario, December 20, 2010 — Duluth Metals Limited ("Duluth") (TSX: DM) (TSX:DM.U), and Franconia Minerals Corporation ("Franconia") (TSX: FRA) are pleased to announce today that they have entered into an arrangement agreement (the "Arrangement Agreement") pursuant to which Duluth will acquire 100% of the outstanding common shares in the capital of Franconia by way of a plan of arrangement under the Business Corporations Act (Alberta) (the "Transaction"), the details of which are set forth in the Arrangement Agreement.

Franconia shareholders will have the option to receive cash (on the basis of C$0.90 per Franconia share), Duluth shares (on the basis of 0.328 Duluth shares per Franconia share) or any combination of cash and Duluth shares, subject to pro-ration, with an aggregate maximum cash consideration of C$37,979,189 and an aggregate maximum of 13,841,304 Duluth shares. Based on the December 17, 2010 closing prices and trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the average value of the offer is approximately C$0.91 per Franconia share, which represents a premium of 46.6% to Franconia's last closing price of C$0.62 and a premium of 48.4% to Franconia's 20-day volume weighted average trading price of approximately C$0.61. Based on Duluth's closing share price on December 17, 2010, the total value of this transaction would be approximately C$77 million.

Franconia's principal assets are a 70% interest in the Birch Lake, Maturi and Spruce Road deposits in northeastern Minnesota through the Birch Lake Joint Venture ("BLJV"). Franconia announced in November 2010 its intention to increase its ownership at the Birch Lake Project to 82% under the terms of the BLJV agreement. As a result of the Transaction, Franconia's assets are expected to be rolled into Twin Metals Minnesota LLC ("TMM"), a Duluth (60%) and Antofagasta PLC ("Antofagasta") (40%) joint venture which includes the Nokomis deposit, one of the world's largest undeveloped deposits of copper, nickel and precious metals. Some of Franconia's deposits and their land holdings are contiguous with those of TMM, and the acquisition will consolidate TMM's position in the Duluth Complex region in northeastern Minnesota. As such, Antofagasta will contribute approximately C$30,000,000 in cash to Duluth's acquisition of Franconia in order to, in part, maintain the 60% and 40% interests of Duluth and Antofagasta, respectively, in TMM.

Fairness Opinion and Unanimous Board Approval

Prior to executing the Arrangement Agreement, the board of directors of Franconia obtained an opinion from Gryphon Partners, Franconia's financial advisors, that the consideration to be received by Franconia shareholders pursuant to the Transaction is fair, from a financial point of view, to the Franconia shareholders.

The board of directors of Franconia has unanimously approved the transaction and all directors and senior officers of Franconia, collectively holding approximately 3.8% of the issued and outstanding shares of Franconia, have entered into support and voting agreements and have agreed to vote their shares in favour of the Transaction at the special meeting of Franconia shareholders.

Arrangement Matters

The Transaction is subject to the approval of at least two-thirds of the votes cast by Franconia shareholders at a special meeting of Franconia shareholders, which is expected to be held in February 2011. Completion of the Transaction is also subject to the approval of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta, the Toronto Stock Exchange, the receipt of all other necessary regulatory and third party approvals, and other customary conditions. In the event that the Transaction is not completed under certain circumstances, Franconia has agreed to pay Duluth a termination fee equal to C$3 million. Franconia has provided Duluth with certain other customary rights, including a right to match competing offers. Full details of the transaction will be included in the management information circular of Franconia to be mailed to Franconia securityholders in due course.

Duluth Private Placement

In connection with the Transaction, Antofagasta has subscribed for 7,604,563 subscription receipts issued by Duluth, by way of private placement, at a price of C$2.63 per subscription receipt for aggregate gross proceeds of C$20,000,000, with each such receipt entitling the holder thereof to one common share of Duluth upon receipt of the final court order approving the Transaction.

Franconia Private Placement

In addition, Duluth and Franconia have entered into a subscription agreement pursuant to which Duluth has subscribed for and will purchase 3,906,250 common shares of Franconia representing approximately 5.3% of Franconia's outstanding common shares at a price of C$0.64 per share in a private placement for total gross proceeds to Franconia of C$2,500,000, of which C$1,000,000 will be provided to Duluth by Antofagasta. In the event that the Transaction is not completed, Duluth has agreed with Antofagasta that Duluth will transfer 40% of such Franconia common shares to Antofagasta. The proceeds of the private placement will be used to fund a land purchase option with Minnesota Power, as well as for general working capital purposes. The closing of the private placement is subject to the approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange and is expected to be completed on or about December 23, 2010. The common shares, when issued, will be subject to a trading restriction of four months from the date of issuance.

"The addition of Franconia's assets to those of TMM creates the potential for significant synergies and represents the logical consolidation of contiguous deposits along the same mineral trend," said Christopher C. Dundas, Chairman and CEO of Duluth and Chairman of TMM. "In addition to creating a development project of larger size, scale and mine life, we will be able to generate considerable efficiencies through shared infrastructure, including milling and processing facilities."

"Further, this transaction demonstrates the strength and upside of the strategic partnership between Duluth and Antofagasta. Through our joint venture, we are consolidating within the Duluth Complex and bringing both the financing and execution capability necessary to develop these promising projects," said Dundas.

"We are very pleased to enter into this agreement with Duluth," said Brian Gavin, President and CEO of Franconia. "With the proximity of our properties, the Duluth and Antofagasta joint venture of TMM is the natural partner for Franconia. As a result of this transaction, Franconia shareholders will benefit from immediate liquidity at an attractive premium, and will also gain future upside potential as shareholders of Duluth, a company which provides a strong platform for growth both from a financial and project development perspective. The Board of Franconia unanimously supports and recommends that Franconia shareholders approve this transaction."

"Franconia's assets are an excellent fit with the Nokomis deposit and we are very pleased to enter into this agreement through TMM, our joint venture with Duluth," said Marcelo Awad, CEO of Antofagasta Minerals SA. "We are looking forward to advancing the development of these promising assets."

A map showing the land consolidation is found on the Duluth Metals website at http://www.duluthmetals.com/ under this press release.


Click to enlarge

Franconia's assets (82% effective ownership) are contiguous with those of TMM and share similar geology. The Birch Lake deposit1 consists of 176.8 million tonnes of Indicated Resources grading 0.528% copper, 0.169% nickel, 0.101% cobalt, 0.239 g/t platinum, 0.515 g/t palladium, 0.117 g/t gold for a copper equivalent (CuEq*) grade of 1.177%, plus an additional 39.9 million tonnes of Inferred Resources grading 0.496% copper, 0.157% nickel, 0.009% cobalt, 0.210 g/t platinum, 0.431 g/t palladium, 0.103 g/t gold for a CuEq* grade of 1.083%. The Maturi deposit2 contains an Inferred Resource of 119.9 million tonnes grading 0.67% copper, 0.25% nickel, 0.02% cobalt, 0.25 g/t palladium, 0.09 g/t Platinum and 0.04 g/t gold; and the Spruce Road deposit3 contains an Inferred (underground) Resource of 124 million tonnes grading 0.59% copper and 0.21% nickel. Franconia also has a 15,000-acre land package. (See footnotes at end of release.)

Currently the NI 43-101 compliant Nokomis4 deposit contains 550 million tonnes of Indicated Resources grading 0.639% copper, 0.200% nickel, 0.660 grams per tonne TPM (platinum-palladium-gold) for a copper equivalent (CuEq**) grade of 1.51%, plus an additional 274 million tonnes of Inferred Resources grading 0.632% copper, 0.207% nickel, 0.685 grams per tonne TPM for a CuEq** grade of 1.53% (more information available at http://www.duluthmetals.com/ and footnotes at end of release). Minnesota has more than a century of mining history and the Nokomis development project is located near major international ports and excellent mining infrastructure such as power, well-developed roads, railway networks, supply-equipment centers and a local labor force.

Over the next 36 months, TMM is advancing development activities at its Nokomis deposit, moving through pre-feasibility towards a bankable feasibility study. TMM has a dedicated budget of US$130 Million to finance these development activities.

The joining of land positions between TMM and Franconia Minerals gives TMM over 25,000 acres of land/mineral interests within and adjacent to the northern South Kawishiwi Intrusion. Four deposits with NI 43-101 compliant Mineral Resources have been delineated: the Spruce Road Deposit; the Nokomis Deposit; the Maturi Deposit, and the Birch Lake Deposit.

David Oliver, P. Geo. is the Qualified Person for Duluth and Site Manager for TMM, in accordance with NI 43-101 of the Canadian Securities Administrators, and is responsible for Duluth's technical content of this press release and quality assurance of the exploration data and analytical results.

Duluth's financial advisor is UBS Securities Canada Inc. and its legal advisor is Stikeman Elliott LLP.

Brian Gavin, P. Geo., President and CEO of Franconia, is the Qualified Person for Franconia in accordance with NI 43-101 of the Canadian Securities Administrators who has had responsibility for the overall coordination and supervision of Franconia's projects and of the preparation of Franconia's scientific and technical information contained in this Press Release.

Franconia's financial advisor is Gryphon Partners and its legal advisor is Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP.

Investor Call

A conference call with senior management of Duluth and Franconia for the investment community has been scheduled for Monday, December 20 at 10:00 a.m. EST. Christopher Dundas, Chairman and CEO of Duluth Metals, Vern Baker, President of Duluth Metals and Brian Gavin, President and CEO of Franconia Minerals, will provide comments and be available to answer questions during the call.

To participate in the call, please dial five minutes prior to the call:

US/Canada Dial-in #: ( 888 ) 231-8191
Int'l/Local Dial-In #: (647) 427-7450
Webcast URL: http://www.newswire.ca/en/webcast/viewEvent.cgi?eventID=3349060

An archived recording of the webcast will also be available on the Duluth Metals website at http://www.duluthmetals.com/.

Footnotes

(1 see Franconia's company profile on Sedar at www.SEDAR.com for the December 1, 2010 Technical Report on the Resource Estimate Update of The Birch Lake Property, Minnesota, U.S.A by Scott Wilson Roscoe Postle Associates; Cut-off $30 NSR. * Copper equivalent (CuEq%) = Cu% + 2.16 x Ni% + 2.03 x Co% + 0.21 x Au g/t + 0.64 x Pt g/t + 0.17 x Pd g/t based on metal prices and expected process recovery. )
(2see Franconia's company profile on Sedar at www.SEDAR.com for the October 20, 2006 Technical Report on the Preliminary Assessment of the Birch Lake and Maturi Deposits, Minnesota, U.S.A by Scott Wilson Roscoe Postle Associates )
(3see Franconia's company profile on Sedar at www.SEDAR.com for the November 15, 2007 Technical Report on the Resource Estimate for the Spruce Road Deposit, Minnesota, U.S.A by Scott Wilson Roscoe Postle Associates; Cut-off grade 0.5% Cu.)
(4see Duluth's company profile on Sedar at www.SEDAR.com for the January 8, 2009 Scott Wilson RPA Preliminary Assessment on the Nokomis Project, Minnesota, U.S.A., Cut-off grade at 1.0% CuEq, **Copper equivalent (CuEq%) = Cu% + 3.03 x Ni% + 0.63 x Co% + 0.30 x Au g/t + 0.76 x Pt g/t + 0.24 x Pd g/t)

About Duluth Metals

Duluth Metals is committed to acquiring, exploring and developing copper, nickel and platinum group metal (PGM) deposits. Duluth Metals has a joint venture with Antofagasta plc on the Nokomis Project, located within the rapidly emerging Duluth Complex mining camp in north-eastern Minnesota. The Duluth Complex hosts one of the world's largest undeveloped repositories of copper, nickel and PGMs, including the world's third largest accumulation of nickel sulphides, and one of the world's largest accumulations of polymetallic copper and platinum group metals. Aside from the joint venture, Duluth Metals retains a 100% position on approximately 31,000 acres of mineral interests on exploration properties adjacent to and nearby the Nokomis joint venture.

About Twin Metals Minnesota LLC

Twin Metals Minnesota LLC is a joint venture company, which is 60% owned by Duluth Metals and 40% by Antofagasta plc. The joint venture's principal asset is called the Nokomis Project, located within the Duluth Complex mining camp in north-eastern Minnesota.

About Franconia Minerals

Franconia Minerals Corporation is currently focused on the development of the Duluth Complex copper-nickel-platinum-palladium project – consisting of the Birch Lake, Maturi and Spruce Road deposits – in this highly prospective region of northeastern Minnesota. Underground mining at Birch Lake will minimize the surface impact of the operation. Also, storage of mine wastes underground would further minimize the surface impact. Additional resources at the Birch Lake project include Inferred Resources at the Maturi deposit (see news release of September 6, 2006) and at the Spruce Road deposit (see news release of December 3, 2007). Independent reports prepared to NI 43-101 standards by Scott Wilson RPA are available at http://www.sedar.com/ and http://www.franconiaminerals.com/.

This document may contain forward-looking statements (including "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the US Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995) relating to Duluth's operations or to the environment in which it operates. Such statements are based on operations, estimates, forecasts and projections. They are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties that are difficult to predict and may be beyond Duluth's control. A number of important factors could cause actual outcomes and results to differ materially from those expressed in forward-looking statements, including those set forth in other public filings. In addition, such statements relate to the date on which they are made. Consequently, undue reliance should not be placed on such forward-looking statements. Duluth disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, save and except as may be required by applicable securities laws.

Twin Metals Building in Ely Now Underway

Ely Echo
Nick Wognum
Dec. 18, 2010

What may be the first mining building in Ely in over 50 years is now under construction. 

Twin Metals purchased a lot in the Ely Business Park and broke ground on Nov. 29.

"It was announced we would do this at a Joint Powers Board meeting and we finally received approval from the Twin Metals board of directors in October," said David Oliver of Twin Metals. 

He said Architectural Resources in Hibbing did the design work and is serving as the construction management firm. 

The general contractor for the contract is Pinckney Construction of Ely.

"The goal all along was to utilize Ely contractors to do the work," said Oliver.

The final slab lifting and concrete pour for the foundation was being completed on Thursday. 

"It all got into the ground. There was good planning by the contractor to prevent the ground from freezing," said Oliver. 

"Their ability to build in this type of climate will allow this building to be built this winter. Twin Metals is very grateful that type of experience exists here in Ely." 

The two story building has a footprint of 50 feet by 110 feet, with 2,200 square feet for drill core logging and cutting and 8,800 square feet for office space. 

"We're looking forward for construction to continue through the winter. The city was very cooperative with partial building permits. We're looking at occupancy in late spring," said Oliver.

State agency likely to lend $4M for mine on Iron Range

Star Tribune
David Shaffer
December 16, 2010

PolyMet Mining, the company proposing Minnesota's first copper-nickel mine, plans to borrow $4 million from Iron Range Resources in a tentative deal that grants stock warrants to the development agency, potentially giving it a stake in the company.

The deal, expected to be approved Thursday, represents the second time the Iron Range agency has offered financial assistance to a copper-nickel venture — a sign of the growing support for non-ferrous mining, which has been dogged by concerns over its environmental risks.

"We are doing our darnedest to get the project off the ground and get some jobs," said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, the chairman of the agency's board. He said he expects the board to approve the deal.

The five-year loan at 5 percent interest is tied to PolyMet's purchase of two land parcels for eventual exchange with the U.S. Forest Service, which owns property at the mine site near Babbitt. PolyMet, headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, controls the mineral rights, but not all the land above the deposits.

The stock warrants would give Iron Range Resources the right to purchase 400,000 shares of PolyMet stock at $2.50 a share with a exercise time window linked to the final permitting of the mine. The company's stock closed at $2.13, up 8 cents in Wednesday's trading. Shares have traded as high as $4.70 in the past five years. If the stock again reached that five-year high, the agency could exercise the warrants for an $880,000 profit.

It's uncommon for stock warrants to be part of development deals, although they were a feature of the Wall Street bank bailout, earning billions in profits for the federal government. Two years ago, the Iron Range agency also received warrants for 2.5 million shares of Franconia Minerals Corp. in a $2.5 million loan/grant package. The agency also has received warrants in four non-mining deals, an IRR spokeswoman said.

PolyMet, a publicly traded company, plans to mine copper, nickel and precious metals in a $600 million open-pit operation and ship the ore about 30 miles by rail for processing at a former LTV Steel taconite plant in Hoyt Lakes. The operation would employ 400 workers, the company says.

The project is in its fifth year of environmental review. Most recently, the Forest Service has begun studying the consequences of swapping more than 6,500 acres of land for the mine. Two of the swap parcels would be financed by the Iron Range Resources loan: 32 acres near McFarland Lake in Cook County and 5,272 acres near Biwabik.

The key environmental risks are mining wastes and long-term pollution of waters that flow eastward to Lake Superior, environmentalists say. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in February declared the draft environmental impact statement "unsatisfactory," and has begun taking a more active role in the process.

Betsy Daub, policy director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said she is outraged by the development agency's deal with PolyMet.

"At this point we have a proposal that is not in the best interest of the Minnesota public, and now you are asking the public to pay for this project, which at this point has received a failing grade," she said.

But Tomassoni said the public is protected. The two parcels will be collateral for the loan, a protection if the mine isn't approved. If PolyMet is a success, the agency also stands to profit from the warrants.

Rebecca Driscoll, who has served as head of economic development for Minnesota and Minneapolis, said the loan is well-structured. "The warrants are totally an upside," said Driscoll, now a principal in the Minneapolis executive recruiting firm Keystone Search. "The beauty of it is those warrants really pay back if the venture is successful."

Minerals that power digital devices also pay for war – New U.S. regulations aim to keep “conflict minerals” out of consumer products

Washington Post
Elizabeth Flock
December 15, 2010

As you arm yourself with electronic gifts over the next few weeks, you probably won't think about the minerals that your new cell phone, laptop or digital camera runs on. But no matter which company made the gadget, it's likely to be powered using tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold, all of which are mined in eastern Congo, where profits contribute to financing the country's bloody war.

Rebel groups and the national army control many of eastern Congo's mines. Over the past decade, more than 5 million people have died, and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped in the struggle for power, according to the Raise Hope for Congo campaign. While the Congolese government has expressed interest in tackling the multimillion-dollar trade in minerals, the involvement of its own troops has led critics to question their efforts.

The West has long been aware of this problem, though hard facts are difficult to establish: A 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report found that less than 10 percent of tantalum (the mineral used to make capacitors in most cell phones and iPods) imported to the United States is from Congo. But one human rights group, the Enough Project, estimates that Congolese armed groups make $8 million per year trading in that mineral alone.

Electronics companies argue that the supply chain is nearly impossible to track: There are thousands of companies, they say, that leave little or no paperwork.

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in July, seeks to change that, by requiring manufacturers to identify so-called conflict minerals and eliminate them. And the Securities and Exchange Commission announced proposed rules Wednesday that would require annual reports from retailers on whether products they sell contain such minerals .

PolyMet wants IRRB loan for land

Duluth News Tribune
Steve Kuchera
December 15 2010

PolyMet Mining is asking the Iron Range Resources Board for a $4 million loan to help buy private property that would be exchanged for U.S. Forest Service land at PolyMet's planned mine site near Babbitt.

The IRRB will consider the request at its Thursday meeting.

"I think it's a very good idea," said Sen. David Tomassoni, board chairman. "It's a project that will result in hundreds of jobs on the Iron Range."

If the IRRB approves the loan, PolyMet plans to use the money to buy the 5,272-acre Hay Lake parcel near Biwabik and the 32-acre McFarland Lake parcel in Cook County. The two sites are among five totaling more than 6,700 acres that would become part of the Superior National Forest in exchange for federal property where PolyMet wants to dig Minnesota's first copper-nickel mine.

If approved, the IRR loan will be secured with a first-priority mortgage on the land (this link explains more in details).

"We'll get paid back once the project starts, but if something does happen where the project doesn't go forward, we will own the land," Tomassoni said. "It's a good, collateralized loan."

If it does loan the money, the IRR also will receive warrants allowing it to purchase 400,000 common shares of PolyMet stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange at $2.50 per share. The stock was trading around $2.10 a share Tuesday.

"If the price goes up to $5 we can get them for $2.50 and cash them in and make quite a bit of money," Tomassoni said.

While a final loan agreement would have to be worked out, the draft terms in the IRRB agenda call for closing on the loan before July 1, 2011. Outstanding principal and interest would be due by Dec. 31, 2015.

"It will help to create jobs and diversify and expand the economy," PolyMet Vice President of Public Affairs LaTisha Gietzen said of the loan. "Is it critical for the project? No."

If approved, the loan will be the second multi-million-dollar infusion of cash into PolyMet in the past few months. On Nov. 12, the company announced that a Swiss natural resources firm will buy $30 million of PolyMet common shares. Glencore will buy 15 million shares at $2 each in three stages, with the last one to conclude when PolyMet receives key permits or by Oct. 15, 2012, whichever comes first.

The project is still in the environmental impact statement phase. The company hopes to receive needed permits in summer 2012, Gietzen said.

PolyMet's proposed open-pit mine near Babbitt would produce copper, nickel, platinum and other metals. The company would process the ore at the former LTV Steel taconite plant near Hoyt Lakes. The $600 million project would create 400 or more jobs for about 20 years. The project has been praised by Iron Range leaders as a critical step toward diversifying the region's dependence on iron-ore mining.

Critics say the company and government regulators can't be sure the mine won't cause long-term environmental problems years after mining operations cease. In October, federal agencies signaled that it will be nearly another year before they release a revised environmental review on the proposed project.