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Survey shows support for copper-nickel mining

A survey commissioned by a pro-mining group shows support for copper-nickel mining among voters in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District.

The survey, conducted April 3-5 and paid for by MiningMinnesota — a copper-nickel mining advocacy group — found that 57 percent of 8th District voters support building new copper-nickel mines in Northeast Minnesota and 28 percent oppose it.

Frank Ongaro, executive director of MiningMinnesota, said the results indicate “strong, supportive numbers for mining in the 8th Congressional District.”

The poll was conducted by Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies and is said to have a 4.38 percent margin of error.

The exact phrasing of questions was not released.

The survey shows less support than the last poll commissioned by a pro-mining group in November 2016, which showed 65 percent of surveyed Northeastern Minnesotans said they strongly or somewhat support "building new copper-nickel mines in northeast Minnesota." Some 26 percent opposed or strongly opposed copper mining while 9 percent were undecided.

That poll, commissioned by MiningMinnesota-member Twin Metals and also conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 400 residents in Cook, Koochiching, Itasca, St. Louis and Lake counties — not voters chosen from across the entire state or the 8th Congressional District like the most recent poll.

“Not surprising that there’s a little stronger support in the direct Arrowhead,” said Ongaro. “We continue to see strong support for mining based on local elected officials, state officials and everything else.”

The 8th District includes cities such as Duluth and Brainerd as well as several northern Twin Cities suburbs.

“Places that, quite frankly, know little about mining,” Ongaro said.

The most recent poll showed that among the 500 registered voters surveyed throughout the state, support for new copper-nickel mines in Northeastern Minnesota sat at 44 percent and opposition at 38 percent.

Chris Knopf, executive director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said the survey seemed to be conducted using "push polling," or setting up questions in order to get a desired answer. Knopf has observed greater opposition to copper-nickel mining in Minnesota as the issue gets more attention.

Polls funded by environmental groups seem to support him.

Earlier this year, a poll paid for by the Campaign to Save the Boundary waters showed that even among voters polled within the 8th Congressional District, which includes the Iron Range, 56 percent opposed and 39 percent supported copper mining near the BWCAW.

Statewide, the same poll found that 70 percent of 800 Minnesota voters said they opposed allowing a copper mine near the BWCAW. That’s up from 59 percent opposition in a similar poll in 2017.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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