The Northland is buzzing with predictions about the upcoming elections. Important questions are being raised, including this one: Minnesota’s roots are in iron mining, but will the government stand with copper-nickel miners?
Traditionally, the mining industry has experienced bipartisan support, something we hope will continue. The evolving mining industry in Minnesota stands to create thousands of jobs once projects are underway and even more jobs in spin-off industries such as manufacturing and construction. With one of the world’s largest deposits of much-needed copper, nickel, platinum, palladium and gold under our feet, we’re well-positioned to grow our economy and bring truth to the promises of job creation made in campaign speeches.
Now, as candidates take to podiums and airwaves, the rhetoric is increasing and the promises are flowing. In the region, we’re demanding to know where these candidates stand on mining - all mining. The metals may be different, but the issues - and the tremendous economic benefits they deliver - are very much the same. We were very pleased about the U.S. Senate debate on Oct. 1. Both Sen. Al Franken and challenger Mike McFadden commented positively about PolyMet’s NorthMet project and stood strong for iron mining.
While other candidates spar on the issue, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reviewing the more than 50,000 comments submitted during the public comment period for the PolyMet NorthMet project. This is an important step of the process to ensure the Final Environmental Impact Statement addresses all potential issues. We should trust the DNR to do its job, carefully and thoroughly, as it reviews and addresses all submitted comments. We have confidence in all agencies responsible for reviewing copper-nickel mining projects to keep politics on the sidelines and to get their work done.
This isn’t the time to let any copper-nickel mining project become a political football. For one, the environmental review and permitting are regulatory matters, not legislative or congressional decisions. The process is working and these projects are better because of it. Secondly, these projects have strong, united support from business and labor - support that has been voiced time and time again at hearings and public forums. And finally, the project continues to enjoy statewide public support by a 2-to-1 margin, as reflected in a recent survey by a media outlet in the Twin Cities.
It is important to remember that mining and the responsible development of our natural resources are set forth in state statute; mining is a valuable part of our state’s tradition and can and should be a part of our economic future.
Every American depends on more than 100 pounds of minerals per day. With more than 4 billion tons of mineral resources waiting for skilled, hard-working Minnesotans to mine them, we need a united front. We need to stop making copper-nickel mining a political issue and focus on what matters: creating jobs while responsibly mining the minerals we need in our everyday lives.
Brian W. Hanson is president and CEO of APEX in Duluth and is a member of Jobs for Minnesotans. Craig Olson is president of the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council and is a member of Jobs for Minnesotans.