New Survey Reaffirms Strong Support for Copper-Nickel Mining in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. (May 1, 2018) – MiningMinnesota today released results from a statewide survey that reinforce public support in Minnesota for copper-nickel mining and strong support for allowing projects to be proposed and follow a rigorous environmental review process.
Statewide voters favor building new copper-nickel mines in Northeast Minnesota (44 percent), compared to 38 percent opposed. While in the 8th Congressional District, a majority of voters (57 percent) support copper-nickel mining, whereas only 28 percent oppose this type of mining.
After learning about the thousands of jobs and billions in economic investment from copper-nickel mining based on the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s estimates for the industry, a majority of Minnesotans (56 percent) support allowing mining companies to explore and develop copper-nickel mines, whereas only 38 percent opposed. In Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District the support was even stronger, with 63 percent expressing support, and only 31 percent opposed.
“Overall, consistent with previous statewide survey results, Minnesotans continue to favor developing copper-nickel mines in Minnesota,” said MiningMinnesota Executive Director Frank Ongaro. “It was also clear that Minnesotans see tremendous value in the economic potential of this industry and overwhelmingly support a project’s right to go through a rigorous environmental review process as a part of demonstrating they can meet environmental standards.”
The majority of voters across the state (64 percent) expressed trust that state and federal environmental agencies would ensure that mining is done safely and responsibly. In the 8th Congressional District, 69 percent stated this trust, with only 29 percent disagreeing.
Furthermore, when asked to choose from two opinions, more than two-thirds of voters (70 percent) believe potential copper-nickel mining proposals in Minnesota should be allowed to go through the rigorous state and federal environmental review process and granted permits if environmental protection standards are met. This compares to just 26 percent of voters who held the opinion that potential copper-nickel mining projects should be prohibited before being proposed. Support increases to 76 percent in the 8th Congressional District, and only 22 percent opposed.
The majority of voters (54 percent) also believe potential copper-nickel projects should continue to be allowed within the boundaries of the Superior National Forest, but outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, if those projects meet all state and federal environmental laws and regulations. Support increases in the 8th Congressional District with 62 percent, compared to 36 percent opposed.
Finally, statewide voters overwhelmingly agree (83 percent) that copper-nickel mining projects will create hundreds of well-paying jobs in the state, and they agree (73 percent) that new technologies will make the mining process safer and cleaner.
The survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and commissioned by MiningMinnesota. The telephone survey was completed April 3-5, 2018, among 500 registered voters statewide, with 200 cell phone respondents, and an oversample of 300 registered voters in the 8th Congressional District. The statewide poll has a margin of error of 4.38 percent.
Memo: Key Findings – Statewide Survey in Minnesota
MiningMinnesota is committed to sustainable and environmentally responsible mining of copper, nickel and precious metals. Driven by a diverse coalition of organizations, companies and individuals, MiningMinnesota works with local citizens, businesses and other organizations to bring growth and job creation to the state through responsible development of natural resources. MiningMinnesota seeks to provide the facts about copper, nickel and precious-metals mining in our state and offer a way for people to get involved and show support. Learn more at www.miningminnesota.com.
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Mining Lessons for Merit Badges
When Geologist Frank Pezzutto asked the dozen or so Boy Scouts what gypsum crystals are used for in our everyday life, all but one stood there in Minnesota Discovery Center’s Hall of Geology baffled.
“Sheet rock,” yelled one of the scouts.
And he was right.
That was just one of the many tidbits of information the 50-plus scouts learned while attending the Mining in Society Merit Badge-Spring Camporee earlier this month. The first-of-its-kind event was organized and sponsored by the Minnesota Section of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME).
Roughly eight troops of the Boundary Waters District of the Voyageurs Area Council Boy Scouts of America participated. The scouts were receptive and enjoyed the day, said Bill Beyer, district chair.
“The boys were really excited, and learned a lot about mining that they didn’t already know in terms of growing up here on the Iron Range,” he said. “They got a better picture of how mining happens and how big a part of our economy it is.”
The scouts spent the day at the Minnesota Museum of Mining, Minnesota Discovery Center (MDC) and a local mine fulfilling the requirements of the Mining Merit Badge. The camporee concluded with an awards ceremony, during which the scouts each received his badge.
To earn the badge, the scouts were required to do several things, including learn about minerals, use a map to locate five mining enterprises, identify potential hazards a miner may encounter, discuss the dangers someone might encounter at an abandoned mine, visit a mining/minerals museum or an active mine, find out what is being done to help control environmental impacts, read about reclamation, meet with a worker in the mining industry and/or research three career opportunities in the mining industry, among other options.
The badge is about a year old, according to Beyer. He said it was devised by a joint effort of Boy Scouts of America and SME.
“We really had both sides of the aisle involved with this, and both were really excited to do this,” he added, noting that not many scouts have earned this merit badge yet. “ … We felt this was a fitting badge for the boys to earn because of being from the Iron Range.”
Beyer also pointed out that merit badges span a range of topics, some of which may spark interest in a scout as potential long-terms goals or even future career options — including mining.
Corie Ekholm, chair of the Northern Subsection of SME, said the camporee went off as planned.
“All has been good,” she said mid-way through the day. “We have beautiful weather, the boys seem very engaged and are learning a lot.”
This was SME’s first time hosting such an event. The goal was to offer an eight-hour, hands-on experience that would result in each participant earning a full badge.
“They really are learning about many aspects of mining — from safety to what the minerals produce after they are mined, to how they are recycled in the afterlife and what really happened in our mining operations,” said Ekholm.
She also noted that SME and Boy Scouts were grateful to the Minnesota Museum of Mining, (MDC) and the local mine for allowing them to utilize their properties.
And if the scouts take just one thing from the day?
“Just how important mining is and how much it plays a role in our everyday lives,” said Ekholm. “Everything we use, most of it comes from something that was mined.”
But that’s not the only main message they took with them
“The biggest thing that seemed to stick with them is how big the mining process is — from turning rock into a product,” said Beyer. “They got a better picture of mining as a whole.”
Opinion: Letter Writer Responds to Column
Hibbing Daily Tribune
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.
New Group Jobs for Minnesotans Formed, Growing
Mesabi Daily News
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.
State Jobs News Quite Good; But Not So Across the Range
Mesabi Daily News
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."
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.