A Balanced Economy Best for the Area

Mesabi Daily News
Opinion: Dave Lislegard (Aurora, Minn.)

We cannot survive on tourism alone. There needs to be a balance among tourism, timber and mining; the very resources that are in our backyard.

Do you realize we have what others need and want, but few have in the world?

We live in a global economy that teeters on the latest news flash, whether good or bad. One example is the gas prices. How many times have we seen the prices fluctuate by what is going on around the world, which in turn, affects our local economy that includes tourism, timber and mining?

Small communities across this country, including our region, are withering away. If you need proof you don't have to go very far, just look at the empty buildings popping up in your community at an alarming rate.

Some say there is nothing we can do about it. Not true, we can work together on building a balanced and diversified economy that includes tourism, timber, mining (precious minerals) that includes PolyMet.

The very fact that we are still debating on whether or not to allow companies to invest capital into infrastructure in our region is unsettling. Please understand this kind of investment demands returns, which ensures us and our communities’ jobs for generations to come.

Congressman’s view: Environmentally sound mining vital to Minnesota’s economy

Duluth News Tribune
By: U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack

I like to say Minnesota is three things: timber, taconite, and tourism. To say we are pro-mining is quite an understatement. The mining industry is critical not only to the economic sustainability of the region but to the prosperity of the hard-working men, women and families who depend on its jobs. The development and exploration of the critical and strategic mineral sector has the potential to build a new, vibrant industry in Minnesota. Truth be told, the industry is integral to our economic well-being.

But despite our rich iron-mining history and mineral potential, Minnesota is ranked by the industry as one of the most difficult places for mining development due largely to our lengthy and expensive permitting process and exacting environmental standards. Chrissy Bartovich, environmental director for U.S. Steel’s Minnesota ore operations, which includes the Minntac mine in Mountain Iron, said we have “the most stringent water quality discharge permits for any taconite mine in the United States,” for example. “These permits are not a choice between jobs and the environment,” she said. “These permits show that the two can coexist.”

It goes without saying that Minnesotans are environmentally conscious. That is why there are strict guidelines that must be followed in order to undertake large projects like the proposed PolyMet mine. Protection of the environment and fisheries are being ensured by a thorough environmental review and permitting process. Thankfully, today’s mining process is environmentally responsible, precise, and thoughtful with an eye toward preserving environmental quality for generations to come.

There is consensus among the PolyMet advisory panel I assembled: Mining without harm is the only way to build a sustainable, responsible minerals-exploration industry in northern Minnesota.

The PolyMet construction project will engage about 300 skilled construction workers and create 360 full-time jobs. A University of Minnesota Duluth study estimates more than 500 more ancillary jobs will be created in St. Louis County alone, generating an economic benefit of about $242 million, including products and services. Additionally, the project is expected to generate tens of millions of dollars annually in federal, state, and local taxes.

We are working hard to preserve our clean air and water on other projects as well. Recently, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens Board unanimously approved Keetac’s water-quality permits. Once all the other permits are secured, Keetac’s capacity can increase by more than 50 percent to 9.6 million tons of iron ore pellets per year.

Likewise, we have moved a step closer to success with the $300 million expansion of the Keetac mine and processing plant in Keewatin. The Keetac expansion is expected to create 120 permanent jobs and 500 temporary construction jobs for Minnesota.

The approval of the PolyMet and Keetac operations would result in direct and much-needed boosts to our economy, yielding a domestic resource of raw materials. Ultimately, this would lower the United States’ reliance on foreign sources and provide well-paying jobs for Minnesota workers at a time of high unemployment.

Bob McFarlin, vice president of public and government affairs for Twin Metals, said copper mining will create the kinds jobs that provide a good life, the kind “that let you send your kids to college.” As a down payment on that promise, Twin Metals built a beautiful, $1.5 million, glass, steel and copper office building in Ely.

Similarly, Essar Steel estimates its expansion will lead to job growth. Just two weeks ago, I met with the folks at the Hibbing facility, where I was told the company was poised to create 1,200 construction jobs, 300 jobs for normal operation, and approximately 500 full-time positions, if the expansion into steelmaking proves economically feasible. Importantly, expanding our mining operations will yield tax revenues for the region, providing a revenue stream for much-needed upgrades to infrastructure.

It is imperative we utilize our resources in the most environmentally conscious way possible, and we are doing just that: Best-mining practices will be deployed for operations in Minnesota, using the cleanest processing technology in the world. We are well on our way toward job creation and a super-charged industry for Minnesota workers and their families. 

Landwehr Confirmation as DNR Commissioner Advances

JD Supra
John A. Knapp


The Minnesota Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee met yesterday to unanimously recommend confirmation of Tom Landwehr as Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner. The confirmation now goes to the full Senate. Commissioner Landwehr introduced himself, told the Committee about his background, and outlined his plans and priorities for the DNR. Landwehr, originally from Mankato, said “I love every corner of Minnesota” and expressed his desire to keep Minnesota’s natural resources around for his kids and future generations. Landwehr’s priorities will be in step with Governor Dayton’s priorities of job creation, a government that works for Minnesotans, and an efficient State government. He described his role as Commissioner as the Chief Steward of natural resources for the State of Minnesota. Please see full article below for more information.

The Minnesota Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee met yesterday to unanimously recommend confirmation of Tom Landwehr as Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner. The confirmation now goes to the full Senate.

Commissioner Landwehr introduced himself, told the Committee about his background, and outlined his plans and priorities for the DNR. Landwehr, originally from Mankato, said “I love every corner of Minnesota” and expressed his desire to keep Minnesota’s natural resources around for his kids and future generations.

Landwehr’s priorities will be in step with Governor Dayton’s priorities of job creation, a government that works for Minnesotans, and an efficient State government. He

described his role as Commissioner as the Chief Steward of natural resources for the State of Minnesota.

Landwehr told the Committee that there has been a downturn in the forest products industry and that it is critical to retain the industries that rely on Minnesota’s forests. A healthy forest industry will be a top priority for the DNR.

In response to questions from the Committee, Landwehr addressed extended rotation forestry, recodification of Minnesota’s timber laws, improving the DNR’s relationship with the forest products industry and offering more State timber for sale.

Landwehr did not mention the mining industry in his initial comments but Committee Chair Bill Ingebrigtsen asked where he stood on mining issues. Landwehr said that the Governor has created a Mining Sub-Cabinet to address mining issues. Its purpose is to create an environment welcoming to mining. Minnesotans have accepted iron mining as an economic driver in northeast Minnesota and should be open to non-ferrous mining as well.

Landwehr said that because Governor Dayton’s priority is job creation, he is obligated to support mining. Mining has the potential of creating upwards of 10,000 new jobs in the State. According to Landwehr, “We don’t want to pass up mining opportunities.”


Duluth Metals Announces Latest Drilling at the Twin Metals Project

Steel Guru

Duluth Metals Limited announced continued strong assay results for 8 holes drilled on the Twin Metals Project in northeastern Minnesota. Two holes, MEX-262 and 267 drilled between the Eastern and Central Higher Grade Areas demonstrates the continuity between the two zones with higher grade platinum + palladium + gold and copper assays. Drilling highlights include:

1. Mex-267 returned 90.0 feet of 0.707% copper, 0.208% nickel, 2.7 gram per tonne silver and 1.552 grams TPM including 40.0 feet of 0.954% copper, 0.282% nickel, 3.3 gram per tonne silver and 2.268 grams TPM.

2. Mex-262 intersected 49.0 feet of 0.881% copper, 0.253% nickel, 2.5 gram per tonne silver and 1.235 gram per tonne TPM.

All six holes completed in between the Maturi Deposit and the Nokomis Deposit demonstrate continuous, relatively thicker mineralized sections which include the following higher grade intervals:

1. Mex-261 returned 170.0 feet of 0.699% copper, 0.226% nickel, 2.5 gram per tonne silver and 0.517 grams TPM including 95.0 foot section of 0.786% copper, 0.252% nickel, 2.9 gram per tonne silver and 0.584 grams TPM .

2. Mex-263-W1 returned 132.5 feet of 0.552% copper, 0.185% nickel, 1.5 gram per tonne silver and 0.517 grams TPM including 62.5 foot section of 0.668% copper, 0.223% nickel, 2.0 gram per tonne silver and 0.640 grams TPM .

3. Mex-264 returned 121.5 feet of 0.550% copper, 0.181% nickel, 1.9 gram per tonne silver and 0.518 grams TPM including 46.5 foot section of 0.702% copper, 0.252% nickel, 2.2 gram per tonne silver and 0.690 grams TPM.

4. Mex-265 returned 185.0 feet of 0.656% copper, 0.225% nickel, 2.5 gram per tonne silver and 0.479 grams TPM including 30.0 foot section of 0.867% copper, 0.270% nickel, 3.2 gram per tonne silver and 0.659 grams TPM.

5. Mex-268 returned 92.0 feet of 0.744% copper, 0.264% nickel, 2.8 gram per tonne silver and 0.506 grams TPM including 60.0 foot section of 0.858% copper, 0.300% nickel, 3.2 gram per tonne silver and 0.578 grams TPM.

6. Mex-269 returned 146.0 feet of 0.550% copper, 0.180% nickel, 1.9 gram per tonne silver and 0.474 grams TPM including 100.0 foot section of 0.629% copper, 0.202% nickel, 2.1 gram per tonne silver and 0.489 grams TPM.


Growth of Solar Energy Boosts Iron Range

Duluth News Tribune
Opinion: Frank Ongaro

The growth and development of one of Minnesota’s newest industries, solar energy, are closely linked to one of Minnesota’s oldest: mining. I applaud Silicon Energy’s expansion in Mountain Iron (“Solar energy finds a home on Iron Range,” Jan. 12), a development that continues to spur economic progress on the Iron Range.

Emerging technologies such as solar and wind energy, which in turn are associated with reputed companies like RENEW ENERGY, are tied to the state’s mining industry, since copper, nickel and steel are integral materials in building these critical energy tools. Due to the advancement in technology, people who use solar energy to light their house can even perform solar monitoring on their phones and tablets using the applications provided by the installation company. While this has become a popular practice in the Pacific region of the United States, it still lacks a strong hold in Canada.   

Minnesota’s Iron Range has one of the largest mineral-resource deposits of copper, nickel and precious metals in the world, more than 4 billion tons. As the U.S. solar industry continues to grow and add jobs, solar cell manufacturers will need the precious metals required to fabricate the photovoltaic panels that capture the sun’s energy, as well as the copper necessary to transmit the energy.

This is great news for Minnesotans across our state and especially for people living on the Range. Mining these minerals will put thousands of Minnesotans to work for several decades, if not for a century. And part of the solar panel power production could also be allotted to these miners tp power their houses. As our state and the country expand their renewable energy use, the Range has the opportunity to become a leader in delivering the resources needed in the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, other alternative-energy equipment and even hybrid vehicles.

Already more than 100,000 Americans work in the solar industry, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The potential for thousands more mining jobs exists in Minnesota alone, positioning Northeastern Minnesota for real and sustained economic development.

Together, let’s put Minnesotans back to work!

Rukavina Lambasts Minnesota Tourism


Tommy Rukavina’s reaction to the article below by Mike Hillman, comments made by Bob Tammen and I believe current citizen backlash against Non-Ferrous (Sulfide Rock) mining can be felt in these recent comments he made in a letter to the Editor of the Timberjay.

Taconite dollars kept the tourist “economy” afloat, says Tommy Rukavina.

I like Mike Hillman. Whenever I bump into him, it’s always a pleasant experience. But I have to confess, Mike broke my heart with part 2 of his “Ely Legacy” article. Part 2 was interesting: Part 2 however was inaccurate, patronizing and somewhat hypocritical. Hillman wrote “for over 40 years we (Ely) have been a tourist based economy,” nothing could be further from the truth. I remember when I worked at MinnTac in 1973, there were hundreds of Ely guys working there. Hundreds more worked at Reserve and Erie Mines. It’s those retirees’ pensions and the living wage salaries of the 90 miners who currently live in Ely and work in the “Range” mines, that keep your economy going. Its’ our taconite tax dollars that come to Ely, Morse Township, Tower Soudan, Lake and Cook counties, year after year, that form the base of your economy, not tourism.

And while I’m on a roll here, let me address Mr. Bob Tammen’s condescending statement in his Nov. 5 letter to the editor, where he wrote “just … drive through Virginia, Minnesota, which has three mines within a rifle shot of Main Street. They’re losing population, they have a poverty rate in the high teens, and they can’t even keep their library open on a Saturday”

Let me explain why this is, Bob, It’s because Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert and Mt. Iron hardly get to keep any of the taconite tax dollars they produce. They go to you and your neighbors. We gave you $3.5 million for a new bridge in Tower to help your “tourism economy” and Mike what were you thinking when you wrote in the past decades, IRRRB has poured millions of dollars trying to help the Mesabi Range diversify its economy” Thems fighting words, my Cousin Jack friend. Your accurate statement should have been over the last three decades the Vermillion Range, North Shore and Cuyuna Ranges have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Mesabi Range to shore up their tourism economy.” Because, Mike and Bob, here are the facts.

In 2009, just as we did in 1999 and 1989, Mesabi Range citizens gave homeowners in the Ely school district $581, 000 of taconite homestead relief. At the same time the homeowners in the Mt. Iron/Buhl school district (which has the MinnTac Mine paying over one third of all taconite taxes in any given year) got $469,000 – why? Because those good people in Mt. Iron and Buhl know Ely would die without their help. Homeowners in the St. Louis County School District got $1.9 million in taconite homestead relief in 2009. Virginia homeowners, surrounded by three mines were pointed out above, only got $1 million – why? To shore up Cook, Orr, Crane Lake and Tower Soudan’s “tourism economy.” Homeowners in the Nashwauk Keewatin school district received $386,000 in taconite homestead relief while the resident homeowners in the Lake Superior School district got $1.4 million. Now, why do Lake Superior residents get three times more money every year than the good people of Nashwauk- Keewatin when their mines pay the same amount of taconite taxes annually? You guessed it my friends, to shore up their “tourism economy”

Folks, this is just one of the many formulas that distribute over $90 million annually in taconite taxes. The same inequities could be pointed out in other distributions. Why for instance do the St. Louis County school kids get $1.44 million of taconite taxes to help their education in 2009, while the Mt. Iron-Buhl kids got only $1.1 million? You guessed it, to help out their meager “tourism economy” Why under the unfair township formula recently established in law, does Duluth Township (on beautiful Lake Superior) get $50,000 a year in taconite tax money, and Morse Township get $49,000 while little Embarrass , which currently has more miners than all of Ely and Morse Township combined, gets only $23,600? You guessed it, to help your tourism economy Rangers survive!!!!!

But enough numbers lets address another fact that I’ve seen with my own eyes. And I hate to point this out to you, Mike, but why if Ely’s tourism economy is so good do Sheridan Street and Chapman Street look as run down as some of our mining towns, who generously give you their taconite taxes every year? Enough Said!

No, us Mesabi Rangers will continue to diversify Ely’s Lake and Cook Counties’ and Tower Soudan’s economy just like we did last year, last decade and for the last 30 plus years. We helped build your Wolf Center, your Bear Center, your Revenue Call Center, your gold course etc. etc. We did the same for Lake County, Cook County, Grand Rapids and Grand Marais. And why? Because we thought we were all one Range. We thought we’d all share the good times and the bad times together.

But maybe all good things must come to an end as the old cliché goes. Maybe us Mesabi Range Chumps who don’t live “north of the Continental Divide” should rethink this union. After all doesn’t any good marriage require both spouses to pitch in? Now that it’s your turn to once again dig the wealth out of the earth, shouldn’t we Mesabi Rangers expect the same sharing of the wealth from you “tourism rangers”

Here is the bottom line, Mike and Bob, and whoever the hell else wants to debate: don’t you think we can do this nonferrous mining while protecting our environment? After all, isn’t it hypocritical that all of us as consumers are demanding these precious metals so we can have electricity, cell phones, computers, heart monitors, new knees (mine’s made of molybdenum, titanium and chromium), windmills, solar panels, etc. etc. but you don’t want to mine them?

I mean its’ gone to the point of being absurd when we have some “new immigrants” in the Eagles’ Nest Township area complaining about realigning and repairing that dangerous highway to Ely because we might disturb some sulfide bearing bedrock. Look around folks, we built a railroad To Ely over 125 years ago that cuts through the same bedrock and I don’t see where that polluted anything!

To sum it all up, am I the only dummy that can see the absurdity, hypocrisy, and downright patronizing nature of all these arguments? Happy New Year to all my friends who live on the Vermillion Range, North Shore and Cook/Orr area. I love you all but it’s time for you to suck it up and help us get this copper-nickel mining going so we can have another 130 years of mining in order to keep our schools and communities thriving because as I’ve shown above, tourism just ain’t cutting it!!!!!! Now excuse me, I’ve got to go mend a broken heart. Tom Rukavina is State Representative from District 5A He lives in Pike Township