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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.

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