Iron Range Mayors' View: Mining can exist with tourism — and always has

Boxes filled with 1.5 million feet of core samples are kept by Twin Metals inside a 17,000-square-foot storage facility in Ely. The storage building opened in 2013. Another 500,000 feet of core samples have been sent by the company to state-managed storage facilities. Every box of core is documented digitally by Twin Metals’ geologists. “It can be thought of as a library of exactly where our mineral deposits are located beneath the surface,” Twin Metals Public Relations Manager Kathy Graul said to the News Tribune Opinion page.

As mayors on the Iron Range, we’re all too familiar with criticisms of the mining industry, even though mining has sustained our communities for decades. Mining is dismissed and brushed off by some who advise us to move on — as if we can simply swap one way of life for another and easily replace the thousands of family-sustaining jobs we’ve lost since the industry’s prime up here.

Even worse is the biased, baseless assumption that we on the Iron Range don’t appreciate or have a stake in protecting the environment.

The mining industry is governed by regulatory standards based on science and law, and no mining project can be permitted without meeting those standards. Yet some continue to call for halting this stringent process when it comes to the Twin Metals’ proposed copper-nickel mine in Northeastern Minnesota. The most recent bids to block regulatory review of the mine are especially upsetting.

They ignore two primary points. One is that projects based in science and that follow a stringent review process can exist while protecting our environment, and the other is that it’s only through such large-scale, regulated industrial projects that we can hope to provide our families with the kind of well-paying jobs — at least 700 in Twin Metals’ case — that we lost a generation ago and that are still on the bubble today in the pandemic era. Not to mention the spinoff creation of at least another 1,400 jobs related to the Twin Metals mine. It’s a level of investment that can’t be matched by another industry, and it could have significant positive ramifications for our communities.

We’re on the verge of an opportunity to safely pursue a mining project to unearth the minerals — copper, nickel, cobalt, and platinum group metals — necessary to fuel a green economy. And it can help fuel our local economy, too, bringing a level of investment to our communities no one else is likely to make during these trying times.


Please consider the future, including the future of our cities, where mining can once again exist in harmony with tourism — as it has throughout our history. Let the regulatory process proceed.

Chuck Novak is mayor of Ely and Andrea Zupancich is mayor of Babbitt. They wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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