A majority of Minnesotans from around the state appear ready to embrace the prospect of developing Minnesota's massive copper, nickel, gold, platinum, and titanium resources through expanded mining. That's according to the most recent Thinking Minnesota Poll, a quarterly research project underwritten by the Center of the American Experiment where I work.
According to the poll, 54 percent of Minnesotans support mining these resources, with only 32 percent of the state's population in opposition to more mining; 13 percent of respondents said were not sure whether they supported or opposed mining.
Mining has the most support in non-metro Minnesota. According to the poll, 61 percent of respondents in Northeastern Minnesota support mining with only 33 percent opposed and 5 percent unsure. Sixty percent of suburbanites favor mining with 27 percent opposed and 14 percent unsure. Sixty percent of residents in western and northwestern Minnesota support mining with only 18 percent opposed and 17 percent unsure. In southern Minnesota, 57 percent of respondents agree the state should develop its mineral resources, with 34 percent opposed and 9 percent unsure.
In fact, the only geographic region of the state that did not favor more mining was the Twin Cities, where support and opposition evenly split: 43 percent for mining, 43 percent opposed, and 14 percent unsure.
Support for mining grew when residents learned that developing our mineral resources would add $3.7 billion to Minnesota's economy and support 8,500 jobs - and not just in northern Minnesota but throughout the entire state. Upon hearing this, support for mining increased from 54 percent to 73 percent, and opposition fell from 32 percent to 11 percent.
The economy is one of the main reasons Minnesotans support mining.
And there appears to be broad agreement that Minnesota's mining regulations are among the strongest in the country. According to the poll, 62 percent of the population believes Minnesota's mining laws are stricter, or comparable, to regulations in other states.
Minnesota's strict environmental regulations mean that developing the state's mineral resources can be done in an environmentally responsible way. Modern mining technology and regulations allow our state to minimize the environmental impacts of mining while maximizing the economic potential of mining.
Mining is often portrayed as an 'either-or' proposition - jobs or the environment, tourism jobs or mining jobs. But these portrayals are inaccurate because advances in technology mean Minnesota can have a healthy environment and a strong mining economy.
It appears a majority of Minnesotans understand these facts, which is why they support expanded mining in Minnesota.
Isaac Orr is a policy fellow specializing in energy and environmental issues at the Center of the American Experiment, a think tank in Golden Valley, Minn. He can be reached at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @thefrackingguy.