Reader's View: We can have both safe mining, clean water

It’s not silly to think we can have clean water, mine safely, and lead the way for the green economy better than anyone else.

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I read with great interest the April 9 commentary from an environmental activist who characterized as “silly” Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar’s claim that we have the resources used in the green-energy economy right here in Minnesota.

The claim in the column , headlined, “Clean water must be Minnesota’s top priority,” that green technology mostly uses silicon and plastic lacked important context: A cellphone or solar panel doesn’t work on just plastic and silicon. We need minerals such as cobalt, nickel, silver, copper, and many others for clean-energy technology.

This sort of misdirection has become the standard operating procedure among anti-mining groups. The demand for non-ferrous minerals will skyrocket in coming years. For instance, we will use more copper in the next 25 years than we have used in the entire history of our planet. We can’t recycle our way to mineral independence.

The column also claimed it’s “silly” to assume that if mining does not occur in Minnesota, we will lose our valuable technology. While this might be technically true, although unbelievably condescending, it’s also true that by not using local materials we are supporting child and slave labor across the globe. According to one UNICEF estimate, 20% of mining in developing nations is done by children either directly as slaves or in slave-like conditions.

Minnesota was founded to be an anti-slavery state, and we sent the first troops to fight against slavery in the Civil War. We can and must do better to fight worldwide slavery. That includes using our own workers and environmental protections for the green economy.


We do have many water resources in our great state, and we must continue to protect our water as we have for generations.

But it’s not silly to think we can have clean water, mine safely, and lead the way for the green economy better than anyone else.

Sen. Rob Farnsworth


The writer is a Republican who represents Minnesota Senate District 7.

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