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.