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Local View: Anti-mining groups fear losing control

PolyMet is reusing and reclaiming the former LTV Steel Mining site near Hoyt Lakes. Photo courtesy of PolyMet Mining.
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Conservationists with Common Sense has attended various forums and learned about the proposed copper-nickel mining projects at PolyMet and Twin Metals. We have given our support to them. We feel these mining projects can be done safely and protect our environment. We have suggested many times that anti-mining groups come to the table to ensure that these projects are done right. They typically refuse.

A letter in the News Tribune on June 28 from the CEO of the pro-mining group Minnesota Miners asked the environmental and anti-mining groups for their answers to the lack of good-paying jobs and the lack of a stable economic base in Northeastern Minnesota. The anti-mining groups don’t have adequate answers.

Recently, Becky Rom of Ely, the national chairwoman of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, gave an update to group members in Ely. She basically declared war against Twin Metals and made it clear she and her anti-mining groups have no plans to help the area’s economy.

I asked Rom at the meeting about China’s 95 percent control of strategic metals it could stop selling to the U.S. She said copper isn’t a strategic metal. Twin Metals will be mining for several strategic metals. Strategic metals mining refers to metals such as copper, nickel, and precious metals including platinum, palladium, gold, and silver.

I also stated that if we can’t mine in the Superior National Forest, according to the 1978 BWCAW Wilderness Act, mining could be conducted in the Boundary Waters if a national emergency was declared by the president. No one wants to see that happen. We would much rather mine outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.


Tourism has declined. I believe it’s because of the constant negativity against copper mining. When I asked about the numbers of visitors coming to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness dropping from 250,000 in the 1970s to barely 100,000 today, Rom said the numbers were wrong all along, that it was closer to 150,000 originally. Yet, 250,000 is the number on the Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness website, the organization Rom vice-chairs. The U.S. Forest Service recently changed the number of visitors on BWCAW permits in the 1970s from 250,000 to 150,000.

There is no convincing science anymore for the anti-mining argument. New technology has made copper-nickel mining safer. It is not the mining of 50 or 100 years ago.

As Rom and the anti-mining groups grasp for straws to stop the mining projects, their main objective seems clear: They do not want more people moving to the area for good-paying jobs to support our communities, schools, and hospitals. Most new residents now are retirees or those who can work remotely via the internet if they are fortunate enough to have broadband. That’s far different from the hundreds of employees the mines would have.

Keeping the Iron Range’s population down and aged is a way of keeping control. The mining companies represent an increase in population to support our communities — and a loss of control for anti-mining groups.

Nancy McReady of Ely is president of the grassroots group Conservationists with Common Sense (

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