Opinion: Letter Writer Responds to Column

Hibbing Daily Tribune

James Mancuso

Response to column by Aaron Brown "No hope on the Range, but for the hope we create" published on Sept. 15.

I sincerely believe that much of what Mr. Brown wrote concerning the future of mining, especially for non ferrous metals, is not supported by facts, is based primarily on false information and could negatively influence many concerning non-ferrous mining.

His assumption is that though an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Polymet Mine has been released to the public, it will be several years before litigation ends and development of the mine will proceed.

The EIS was more than five years in the making, and some negative reaction from the public is expected. However, because of strong support from unions, Iron Range
representatives and Minnesota's executive branch, it's most likely that full permitting will be complete within a year.

He states that even with permits, mining companies will not "get through litigious land mines," and long term financial assurance will not be available. He further notes that non-ferrous mines frequently are bought and sold, and that the financial
strength of new owners may not be enough to secure the necessary environmental and remedial terms.

However, the non-ferrous mines will be very large and long lasting and if changed in ownership, they will be only to other large companies. And, permitting compliance has been and will continue to be covered by insurance.

He states that non-ferrous mining is more volatile than iron mining. Perhaps Mr. Brown is not old enough to remember the long layoffs in winter or because of workers' strikes. Or the fact that if it were not for technology for mining and
concentrating taconite, iron ore mining and the Range would be essentially dead by now.

Also, large, non-ferrous mines in the Southwest United States, Mexico and South America are very long lived, many having been in operation for more than 100 years, as will the copper/nickel mines in Minnesota.

I would like to know what is meant by "in future, clean water and a temperate climate will be more valuable to us than minerals in the ground." Does it follow, then, that no minerals should be mined even though without them our civilization would not exist?

Also, what is meant by "we must balance mineral extraction with resource management?" We wouldn't have profitable mines without good resource management, so, again, does he mean no mining?

And lastly, his statement that "economic diversity is the only hope we have" means what? Does he think that the Range can compete with Silicon Valley, Austin, Boulder or the Twin Cities for high tech industries?

Modern mining is, as he states, very technically advanced, and calls for an educated, well paid workforce. There is no other choice for long-term survival of the Range. If mining were to cease, the Range will be left with ghost towns and will be only a playground for the Twin Cities and other metropolitan areas.

I strongly encourage your newspaper to enlighten your readers to the benefits of mining, including non-ferrous minerals, which can and will be done under very strong environmental requirements, and could last for another 100 years.


Editorial: Good News for Mining in Congress

Mesabi Daily News

Two key Minnesota members of Congress stood up for mining on the Iron Range recently.

We applaud their efforts in Washington.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar took on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' regarding their permitting process.

She urged the agency to speed up its permitting review for Minntac's expansion project, which needs a hurry-up from federal officials.

To put it another way: "Get your butts in gear."

Meanwhile, 8th District Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan supported a Republican-sponsored bill that would streamline the permitting process for rare earth minerals used in telecommunications, military technology, health care and energy.

That is vital to the Iron Range because PolyMet and Twin Metals copper/nickel/strategic metals projects would benefit.

Regarding the controversial projects, Nolan said: "I'm pro-mining. But I also very strongly believe we have to do it right. And we can. We have the brains and the technology to do so."

Well said, congressman.

And way to put some pressure publicly on the Corps of
Engineers, senator.


Opinion: Jobs for Minnesotans on Mining Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota

Grand Rapids Herald-Review

We are confident that Minnesota's new mines will be built in an environmentally responsible manner and more importantly, offering an unprecedented opportunity for Minnesota to build the green economy of the future," said Harry Melander, president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council and co-founder of Jobs for Minnesotans.

"Why are we so confident? These projects will be reviewed by more than six federal and state agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. They will literally be the "greenest" mines in the world because they will use 21st
century technology and re-use Minnesota's existing mining infrastructure," Melander continued.

"Metals like copper and nickel are necessary to create a green economy that includes wind, solar and other alternative energies. By getting these metals right here in Minnesota, we can build the state's and country's role in the new, sustainable economy of the future, provide thousands of permanent jobs, and put billions in new tax revenues into Minnesota's public schools."

"These projects will boost the economy in the Iron Range region and have a significant impact statewide, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in our economy and providing a boon to Minnesota businesses and their employees," added David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.


State Jobs News Quite Good; But Not So Across the Range

Mesabi Daily News

Bill Hanna

The headlines for state economic news the last week or so shouted out good jobs news.

But it would appear someone didn't get the memo for the headline writer to include the Iron Range and northeastern Minnesota in the good-news frenzy.

Even though mining, the region's biggest industry based on salaries, is running at near-full capacity, the employment and jobless numbers don't add up anywhere near as well for the Iron Range as the statewide averages.

Example: For the first seven months of 2013 through July, a comparison of the statewide unemployment rate with that of the Iron Range shows the area's jobless rate is 64 percent higher than the overall Minnesota level.

And a report put out last week by the U.S. Commerce Department showed more negative data for the region.

While Minnesota metros – the Twin Cities (3.9 percent), St. Cloud (4 percent), Mankato (4.1 percent) and Rochester (3.6 percent) – rank in the top quarter of 381 U.S. metropolitan areas Gross Domestic Product growth from 2011-2012, the Duluth area shows a -2.8 percent.

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Tony Sertich said it is not as bad for the region as the numbers would indicate at first look.

"The biggest factor in the jobless rate and lack of job growth is the logging and timber industry. Logging, timber, manufacturing and mining are grouped together. That's where the hit is in those numbers," Sertich said.

And state Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, who is also a member of the IRRR Board, said, "It's always a mystery to me why we are lagging in employment when our mining industry is doing so well," he said.

The wood products industry has been devastated, with 1,305 jobs in the region lost between 2000 and 2010 and employment in that sector is still dropping, according to Jan Saxhaug, Department of Employment and Economic Development regional analyst of Northeastern Minnesota in Grand Rapids.

Mining jobs in the seven-county Arrowhead area, however, have also not recovered yet from 2000 levels. Mining employment was 5,599 in the region going into the previous decade. It was then trimmed by 2,506 from 2000 to 2010, Saxhaug said. The bounce back from 2010 to 2012 – 1,491 – does not yet cover that deficit.

"But that includes LTV," Sertich said, referencing the 2000-01 closing of that taconite plant near Hoyt Lakes and the subsequent loss of 1,400 jobs. "It takes time to get that back. But with Magnetation and copper/nickel we will regain that footing."

He was referring to Magnetation, which is turning taconite tailings into product and jobs, and nonferrous projects PolyMet, in the footprint of LTV and currently in an advanced permit stage, and Twin Metals near Ely and Babbitt, which is not yet that far advanced.

While Minnesota is logging relatively low unemployment, the Iron Range continues to have persistent, significantly higher percentages of jobless people. Here are those percentages so far in 2013:

· Minnesota: January, 6.6; February, 6; March, 5.8; April, 5.4; May, 4.9; June, 5.2; July, 5.1. Average: 5.5.

· Virginia: January, 8.8; February, 8.5; March, 7.8; April, 7.3; May, 7; June, 7.9; July, 7.7. Average: 7.9.

· Hibbing: January, 7.7; February, 7.1; March, 7.4; April, 6.8; May, 7.7; June, 8.6; July, 8.9. Average: 7.7.

· Grand Rapids: January, 11.8; February, 10.8; March, 11.1; April, 10.4; May, 9.1; June, 8.6; July, 8.6. Average: 10.

The data is like a nagging migraine headache for the region – one that tags along for the ride in a mining boom/bust area, such as the Range, where there is not enough economic diversity.

"It's been going on for a while, all the way back to the Depression days and before that," Sen. Tomassoni said.

The IRRRB was created in 1941 to try to break the boom/bust cycle. Its mission was first and foremost economic development on the Range.

A production tax paid in lieu of property tax dollars goes into several funds. Some of the money aids school districts and a growing amount of funds go to public works in

The economic development dollars are generated to help attract new businesses or expand others already on the Range.

There have been several IRRRB success stories of new businesses in the past several years, mostly call centers that do provide significant employment on the Range. But the higher jobless rates persist.

So why has the IRRRB economic development engine, which no other area of the state and no other mining region of the country have, not attracted more new business and created more jobs?

"Economic development is not an exact science. We have hits and misses. We're always trying to do more," Tomassoni said.

"It's always important to look at diversification and we will continue to do so," Sertich said. "Is the agency doing enough? We can always do more. We're never satisfied. We're doing the work of economic development every day. But basically, I think we are on a par with other rural parts of the state"

Yet when it comes to manufacturing, the Iron Range took a huge hit between 2000 and 2010, losing 4,500 jobs. Since then, the Range gained back only 670 of those jobs, Saxhaug said.

He added, however, that the Range is "actually a little better off than the state as a whole" as far as a manufacturing rebound.

And Sertich said, "The manufacturing sector is doing quite well."

But not as well as northwestern Minnesota, where a job fair will be held in Roseau next Thursday to try to find workers for many openings.

"Jobs are plentiful, largely because there is a boom in manufacturing locally," said Kathy Carney, workforce development field operations manager at DEED. "The labor market is so tight that companies have been hard-pressed to find new workers."

According to DEED, manufacturing accounts for one in every four private sector jobs in northwest Minnesota. In addition, manufacturing employment is projected to grow by 17 percent, or 4,240 jobs, between 2010 and 2020.

But Sertich said it's not fair to compare areas as far as job growth. "It's like comparing apples and oranges."



New Group Jobs for Minnesotans Formed, Growing

Mesabi Daily News

Charles Ramsay

One of the main backers of a state group supporting more mining jobs in Northeastern Minnesota sees passage of H.R. 761 in the U.S. House as vital to the area's economy.

"This is getting us one step further in creating job opportunities," Jobs for Minnesotans co-founder Harry Melander said in a phone interview Thursday. He is president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council.

The group had mounted a campaign urging supporters of mining to call their elected officials to vote for the measure, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013, which would revise and streamline permitting for mining activities.

"We're very appreciative of those who helped," Melander said.

While keeping strict environmental standards, the bill, which has to go to the U.S. Senate, would utilize best practices to improve coordination with regulatory agencies, bring better efficiency and a better timeframe to the process.

However, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., told the Mesabi Daily News last week that chances for the bill's passage in the Senate were not that good, as backers did not reach out to the Senate or White House for input.

Melander said in a statement that numbers of mining projects in Northeastern Minnesota offer "an unprecedented opportunity for Minnesota to build the green economy of the future."

Using 21st century technology and reusing existing mining infrastructure for the projects will help nonferrous mining advance, he explained.

"Metals like copper and nickel are necessary to create a green economy that includes wind, solar and other alternative energies," Melander said. "By getting these metals right here in Minnesota, we can build the state's and country's role in the new, sustainable economy of the future, provide thousands of permanent jobs, and put billions in new tax revenues into Minnesota's public schools."

David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the group's other co-founder, added in a statement that mining projects "will boost the economy in the Iron Range region and have a significant impact statewide, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in our economy and providing a boon to Minnesota businesses and their employees."

Minnesota has one of the largest untapped sources of strategic nonferrous metals in the world, at 4 billion tons, that includes copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, cobalt and gold.

The strategic metals mining industry, once operational, has the potential to produce thousands of jobs across industry sectors, according to Jobs for Minnesotans.

Their website is at http://www.jobsforminnesotans.org/.

The group was formed in October 2012 to educate and give information about the potential for jobs creation the industry could help provide in the state.

One nonferrous mining project, PolyMet, has been in the environmental impact review process for a number of years.

Another company, Twin Metals, is looking to get into its environmental review.


In response: Mining essential to keep the economy running

By: Arthur E. Englund, Duluth News Tribune

As a 56-year member of the Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, I feel a response is necessary to the Aug. 23 commentary, "What the metals-mining lobbyist left out of column speaks volumes." The commentary opposing copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, without realizing it, actually cited the need for these mines. By enumerating the number of visitors to Ely (700,000 per year), the number of Boundary Waters visitors (250,000 per year) and the number of deer hunters in Minnesota (600,000) the column actually endorsed the need. How do all of those visitors and hunters get to those recreational areas? Most likely they go in their cars and trucks and not by horse and buggy. And of course, as Octane Holding Group Ltd puts it, a large amount of Earth-based minerals goes into the manufacturing of those vehicles – and it takes mined petroleum to fuel them.

The Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers has as its slogan, "If it can't be grown, it has to be mined." This is an irrefutable fact. Test it for yourself. It is not an assumption like the opponents' that rivers and waters will be polluted by the proposed mines. Regulations and restrictions developed over years in conjunction with the latest available science and technology will provide necessary safeguards to prevent pollution. Ever since the American industrial revolution gained speed in the latter part of the 1800s, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin provided the iron ore that fed the steel mills. The iron mines of Minnesota provided 80 percent of the iron ore required during World Wars I and II. As many as 100 million tons per year were shipped from Minnesota during World War II to support the war effort. Where would the U.S. be today without that massive source of raw material?

The commentary noted that one proposed mine would be foreign-owned by Canadian and Antofagasta (Chilean) companies. This may be true, but the writer erred by not reporting that U.S. companies have mining interests all over the world. For example, one of the largest copper mines in the world, located in the South Pacific, and the large iron ore operations in Labrador were developed by U.S. companies. A U.S. company also is going forward with the attempt to open an iron mine in Wisconsin.

The U.S. also imports raw materials from all over the world that are necessary to maintain our standard of living. Oil is only one of the products of mining. China has been one of the primary U.S. sources of rare Earth metals so essential to our electronics industries, including cell phones, computers, and most new high-tech equipment. And let's not forget U.S. companies export major mining and manufacturing equipment to the world market.

We are in a world economy. Countries such as China and India (think of Minnesota's Essar project) – and the U.S. – are searching the world for sources of minerals that can be identified and controlled with long-term contracts. An interesting example of this race is noted in a Wall Street Journal article of Aug. 23, 2013, headlined, "As investors flood Greenland, China has a big role." In Greenland, a London-based company is proposing an iron mine that may require blasting into Greenland's 550-foot ice cap in preparation for mining. It may sound improbable, but such is the world's search for raw materials.

Remember, "If it can't be grown, it has to be mined." Let's look at the facts from both sides of the discussion and not unproven assumptions.

Arthur E. Englund of Pengilly, Minn., is a retired minerals engineer and a member for 56 years of the Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, serving as an officer for its Northern Minnesota Section. His lengthy career in mining also included in senior management at Hibbing Taconite and as a consulting engineer.

Appellate Victory Solidifies Flambeau Mining Company’s Exemplary Environmental Record

DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C. secured a complete appellate victory for Flambeau Mining Company in a decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Seventh Circuit) on August 15, 2013.  At issue in the appeal was whether the trial court in the Western District of Wisconsin erred in determining that Flambeau Mining Company had violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging storm water containing de minimis amounts of copper from its reclaimed mine site without the proper permit.  In reversing the trial court, the decision makes clear that Flambeau Mining Company was in compliance with the CWA at all times.

Following closure of active mining at the Flambeau Mine site, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) elected to regulate Flambeau Mining Company’s storm water discharges at the site pursuant to its mining permit.  WDNR relied on a specific provision in the Wisconsin Administrative Code allowing it to regulate the site’s storm water pursuant to the Mining Permit, rather than pursuant to a separate Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination Permit (WPDES) permit.  It was undisputed that Flambeau Mining Company relied upon and complied with the storm water discharge conditions of the Mining Permit since issued by WDNR in 1998.  Despite that, plaintiffs filed a citizen suit alleging that the company’s mining permit was not a WPDES permit issued pursuant to the Clean Water Act, and therefore, any storm water discharges were illegal. 

Though the trial court ultimately concluded that Flambeau Mining Company’s environmental efforts at the mine site were “exemplary” and that those efforts deserved “commendation, not penalties,” the trial court held that the Mining Permit was not a valid WPDES permit, and because the CWA is a strict liability statute, imposed a proforma penalty of $25.00 for each of the eleven discharges.  The trial court also denied Plaintiffs their attorneys’ fees.  Flambeau Mining Company appealed from the decision of liability, and Plaintiffs appealed the denial of their attorneys’ fees request. 

On appeal, Flambeau Mining Company argued that its Mining Permit was properly issued by WDNR, the only entity with authority to issue CWA storm water permits in Wisconsin, that Flambeau Mining Company reasonably relied upon the permit it was issued, that it was in compliance with that permit, and that Plaintiffs’ lawsuit was barred by the Clean Water Act’s permit shield provisions.  Plaintiffs argued that the Administrative Code relied upon by WDNR to regulate storm water discharges with the mining permit had not been properly approved by the EPA, that the Mining Permit was not a permit issued pursuant to the Clean Water Act, and the permit shield did not apply accordingly. 

The Seventh Circuit reversed the trial court decision, determined that Flambeau Mining Company was entitled to the permit shield defense, and therefore had not violated the CWA.  In summary, the Seventh Circuit concluded that Flambeau Mining Company had been told by the WDNR that its mining permit constituted a valid WPDES permit, that Flambeau Mining Company had no notice that any provision of the state law upon which WDNR relied to issue the permit was invalid, and that Flambeau Mining Company was at all times in compliance with the mining permit as issued.  The Seventh Circuit determined that denying a regulated entity the permit shield under these circumstances would be “inconsistent with the requirements of due process” and would “vitiate the permit shield” altogether.  The Seventh Circuit emphasized that the permit shield is intended to provide permit holders certainty and finality by ensuring that compliant CWA permit holders will not face enforcement actions. Here, the enforcement action attempt was made more than a decade after the permit in question was issued.  The Seventh Circuit also denied plaintiffs’ cross-appeal relating to attorneys’ fees holding that since the plaintiffs were not prevailing parties, they were not entitled to fees.

The decision is a victory for Flambeau Mining Company and its exemplary environmental record. 


Click here to read the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision.  

Reader’s View: It’s Hypocritical to Ask Mines to Prove They Won’t Pollute

Duluth News Tribune (Daily)

Darrell Anderson

Sept. 1, 2013

The prove-it-before-we-permit-it position taken by mining opponents demands a response. Blinded by zeal, they don’t see their hypocrisy.

Imagine applying for a driver’s license and being asked to prove, before receiving it, that you would never injure, maim or kill. In 2011, 32,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents. We know cars kill, but environmental activists are more concerned with what might happen. What about that favorite adult beverage? Prior to purchase, shouldn’t proof be required that no damage will result from its use? Wind turbines are proven to kill songbirds, but this hasn’t stopped their proliferation. Selfish bicyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians are proven hazards on crowded roads.

In laboratory studies, new mining and processing methods have been proven safe and effective in eliminating acid runoff, the byproduct of the abandoned smash-and-smelt refining process activists so fear. But this isn’t enough to mollify the anti-mining crowd. They want it proven outside of a lab. This leads to an obvious paradox: They want proof but refuse to allow the demonstration of said proof.

Another paradox the environmental movement seems reluctant to address is that by effectively banning mining and processing here in the U.S., mines will end up in places like China, where no environmental protections exist. Activists don’t want to save the world; they just want the ugly stuff to happen in someone else’s back yard. Here in the U.S. we have the toughest environmental protections on Earth. Forcing mines from the U.S. and into countries without those protections guarantees environmental damage.

Demanding that mines pre-prove accidents won’t happen is a pipe dream. Activists should prove themselves 100 percent safe before holding others to that standard. In life there are no absolutes, except among environmentalists, for whom “absolute” means absolutely no mining.