Iron Range agency OKs loan for PolyMet

The Iron Range Resources board approved the $4 million land swap loan to the PolyMet mining company Thursday afternoon. This was expected as the nonferrous mining project proposed by PolyMet for the eastern Iron Range is politically popular as a job creation plan. It’s a complicated deal, though, one that puts the Iron Range public sector in the ownership mix of this private mining project.

Let’s view a parade of “first lines” (we used to call them ledes) from media coverage of this proceding:

John Myers – Duluth News Tribune:

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board approved a loan Thursday of up to $4 million to PolyMet Mining Co., but environmental groups are questioning whether the loan was legal.

Bob Kelleher – Minnesota Public Radio:

Eveleth, Minn. — A state agency could become part owner of a controversial copper-nickel mine proposed in northern Minnesota.

The state’s Iron Range Resources agency has approved a loan package that gives it an opportunity to purchase PolyMet stock.

Bill Hanna – Mesabi Daily News (subscription only):

EVELETH — The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board approved a can’t-lose $4 million loan to PolyMet Mining Inc. at its Thursday afternoon meeting.

Tell me, which of these three writers sounds most like someone with a gambling problem?

Anyway, that’s how it is doing politics on the Iron Range. I imagine it’s like how it is in some countries where one quickly learns to ignore the state run media, relying instead on what the hungry children begging at the market have heard from the wealthy men whose shoes they shine. 

If the script is similar to previous projects, PolyMet will continue making progress on its permits and financing. If reality has its way, and it usually does, something about the project will change — its size, its scope, its approach, certainly its number of jobs created. That’s a guess, mind you, not yet a fact. The reason I bring this up is that IF this happens the people of the Iron Range will have no recourse. Our leaders will say they have a “fiduciary responsibility” to do whatever the company says in order to recover this “can’t lose” investment. And we’ll do what we’re told. Be happy with what you’ve got. Don’t ask how the money could be better spent, or what it could have done for our cities and schools facing crippling budget cuts over the next biennium.

Or do ask. Yes, I think that’s what I’ll do.

Remember, jobs are important but we can’t “buy” enough jobs to fix our problems. Since 1982 the Range region has lost at least 10,000 jobs, 40 percent of its population and 50 percent of its school enrollment. We on the Iron Range need to use our public resources to create a self-sustaining economy and preserve a quality of life attractive to current and future residents. We should do this because those are two things the private sector will not do on its own. The private sector WILL mine things if its profitable and that’s just fine with me, if not some of my friends.


  1. I see where Dayton appointee Aarsen with the MN Environmental group filed lawsuit vs PolyMet saying IRRB couldn’t loan them money because they weren’t approved yet. Sited Lynx and Wolf habitat would be destroyed. Really???? My father an original Hull Rust miner, said “listen to what a man says , but watch what he does”. Dayton can’t get past his ultra liberal roots. He says jobs but appoints “job killers”. Hope you’re happy all you proud DFL’ers. Can they move their mining operation over about 45 miles, because if mining kills wolves, we got a ton of them at my deer camp. Freaking idiots!!!!!

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