The nonferrous mining debate in northern Minnesota continues its holding pattern around the flaming, riot-scarred airport of Progress. I’ve written a two-part Iron Range mining commentary series for the Hibbing Daily Tribune, the first of which ran today. I have decided that instead of running the two-part series here on the blog, I’ll release an extended version of the entire piece next week. This piece will include updates and visual elements you might find interesting.
Here’s an excerpt from that first column, which you can read in Sunday’s Hibbing Daily Tribune:
The biggest detriment to the argument of mining opponents is that there is no ready economic alternative to mining in their worldview. Many of the locals who do oppose new mining are tied to a tourism industry where there is not a lot of growth on the horizon.
But the views of many mining supporters, a crowd that I believe includes a working majority of residents of the Iron Range, are quick to adopt false assurances from the promises of new mining. Mining is more mechanized than ever and even the most optimistic nonferrous mining outcomes would fail to back-fill the enormous gaps in our economy left by the 1980s and ’90s. Further, the environmental protection measures mines like PolyMet or Twin Metals hope to use is untested in the commercial marketplace: innovative, yes, with great potential perhaps, but worthy of investigation.
So, let us proceed with a place of agreement: there is a serious economic problem on the Iron Range. Let us make arguments that build solutions to that problem.
Inspirations for the Iron Range mining commentary included last week’s barbed Star Tribune commentary from Ely resident Joe Baltich, a corrective response this week from former Ely Chamber president Bill Forsberg, and several items showing the advances of a highly mechanized, technologically-marvelous mining industry in Australia.
One thing I haven’t included is this observation. Pro-mining conservatives in Australia just swept into power in this past week’s election Down Under. So it’s a safe bet that mining companies there will continue to accomplish their goals, highlighting the fact that while the local debate can feel like a game of stick ball, we’re actually just one piece on a very big chess board.
Are we a queen or a pawn? To be determined…