Nolan issues mining plan for MN-8; Anderson responds

This morning Rick Nolan and Jeff Anderson held dueling press conferences on mining issues at the Natural Resources Research Institute in Duluth as their race for the MN-8 DFL nomination rolls to an Aug. 14 primary election. Tarryl Clark is also running on the DFL side. The winner will face incumbent freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) in one of the nation’s most competitive congressional races.

Nolan, the DFL endorsed candidate, issued a detailed policy proposal to create a major mining and environmental research facility in northern Minnesota. According to Nolan, the United States Technical Institute for Mining and the Environment (TIME) could employ up to 1,200 people and foster new mining innovation across the region. He said he’s spent months preparing the details, modeling his idea after a similar coal mining-focused site in West Virginia.

Here’s Nolan:

“As Minnesota’s next Eighth District Congressman, I intend to lead a national effort to advance mining technology in the United States. Building our nation’s mining industry while protecting the environment and the safety of our miners is an absolutely essential public policy challenge for America, as well as for our great mining regions here in northeastern Minnesota,” Nolan said. “The US Bureau of Mines was closed by the Congress in 1996. Since that time we have done little to help our domestic mining industry or the environmental community to solve the difficult issues we face as a nation in developing our strategic mineral resources.”

Former Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Nolan supporter, added:

“Rick Nolan is onto something big here. This minerals institute will excite the imagination of the region’s young people, offering them hope for the future; it will complement the UMD School of Science and Engineering, the fastest-growing in the nation; it will nurture long needed public-private partnerships in mining and minerals processing; and the institute’s work product will help immensely to secure Northeastern Minnesota as a reliable source of non ferrous minerals as well as iron ore. This is an exciting initiative for the future of our entire region.”

Anderson, a Range native and former Duluth city councilor, has been running hard on the premise that he is the DFL’s most voracious supporter of new mining projects in northern Minnesota. He issued a “mining challenge” to his opponents last weekend in which he demanded more clarity on Nolan and Clark’s mining positions. Then, when Nolan scheduled a press conference yesterday to do just that, Anderson scheduled one in the same location 45 minutes earlier.

Said Anderson:

While I support the idea of doing more research into evolving mining technologies, the people seeking jobs in this district cannot feed their families with studies. They need jobs. Good, livable wage jobs.

Last week I challenged my opponents to join me in supporting a plan to streamline the mining permitting process and hold off on setting a permanent sulfate standard until the study which is currently underway gives us a true scientific base from which to work. We absolutely need to protect our land and water, but to hold mining operations to sulfate levels that are drastically below those of nearby waste treatment and agricultural facilities is simply not fair to the members of our idled workforce.

Anderson argued he is the only DFLer who has agreed to streamline the permitting processes and “normalize” the allowable sulfate discharge levels. He said the NRRI already does a large amount of mining research and that those law changes are the only way to create jobs.

One of the risky bets Anderson has made in his focus on mining is that while he’s been very vocal and probably spent the most time wooing Range votes on the issue, Nolan and Clark’s stated positions are similar. In fact, all the candidates have a similar position, including Cravaack. They want to permit the mines so that the new technology can be demonstrated as safe and open up a new era of mining in the region.

Anderson is more specific, but that comes at a price. The winner of the election must piece the DFL coalition of labor and environmentalists back together for a run at Cravaack, which is why Nolan and Clark have been more careful in their wording. Meantime, Nolan has put a substantial project out on the table, one that’s open to some criticism for spending but that would also create jobs.

UPDATE: Tarryl Clark has added a statement:

“As an advocate and as a leader in the Minnesota Senate, I fought to protect and create good jobs for Minnesota workers. That consistent record is the reason that the United Steelworkers have endorsed me in this race and are actively campaigning with me across the Northland; the steelworkers are the backbone of the mining industry in Northeast Minnesota and they are supporting me because I have always stood with them. They know I’ll fight for them and their jobs in Congress.”

“Fostering economic development and new jobs- through workforce development, smart investments and increased public-private partnerships- is an urgent priority for Northeast and Central Minnesota. With the right advocate in Congress, we can build on our past successes and lead the world in 21st century mining that creates good-paying jobs while remaining responsible stewards of our environment. I have always supported an efficient and effective permitting process which guarantees protections for our workers, our water and our air. In Congress, I will continue to work on improving this process.”

Tarryl Clark continues to campaign throughout Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District to unseat Freshman Tea Party Congressman Chip Cravaack. Clark’s twenty-four years of work on behalf of Minnesota’s seniors, children, veterans, and families, and unmatched funding make her the strongest candidate to win in November. Since leaving the Minnesota Senate, Clark serves as the national co-chair of the Jobs! 21 Initiative with the Blue-Green Alliance, where she continues working to create good, sustainable jobs in Minnesota and around the country.

So, Aug. 14 then.

Photos: Nolan for Congress Facebook page and Nate Dybvig of the Anderson campaign


  1. Anderson is right.

  2. I would agree that Anderson is right as well.

    Nolan having an endorsement from Oberstar doesn’t do well in the 8th district. People gave up on Jim in regards to mining and went republican.

    From Nolan’s website: The environment, our air, lakes, rivers and forests, are crucial to our 8th district economy. The degradation of our air and water, along with global warming, threaten the very survival of our species here on mother earth. We absolutely must do what is called for to prevent this calamity.

    Nolan and this research project sound like EPA easy speak to kill any mining project up here. It might end up being a memorial like Iron World.

    Clark is part of the blue-green coalition intent on killing mining in Minnesota.

    Who is there to trust in the democratic party, that seems to be Jeff Anderson, someone that will actually work for jobs in this region and not pay lip service to it only at election time. It is all about trust in a candidate that will care about our communities, schools, and jobs which are hurting now. The other two dems don’t reach that standard so far in my book.

  3. Nolan wants to spend $250 million tax dollars a year to create 1,200 research jobs.

    Anderson wants to spend ZERO tax dollars to create tens of thousands of jobs.

    The choice is clear.

    Nolan’s decision to cozy up to the Sierra Club may help him
    In the primary, but it will do nothing to win back any of the voters Jim Oberstar lost to Chip Cravaack in the general.

  4. It’s really one of life’s unexpected pleasures to watch, listen to, observe DFL’ers on the Range spin like whirling dervishes lost in a fog, wondering – “how the heck did we get ourselves in this position, losing to a f***ing GOP’er with no way to win it back?”

    I never in my lifetime thought I’d see this glorious day..

  5. Jeff (and to a lesser extent Rick) at least had a point. Tarryl’s comment, like her campaign, lacks any substance. I am sure the voters will race out to support her now that she is pro jobs and pro environment. How is it that the darling of the Steelworker union is the only one in this race yet to say anything proactive or concrete about mining?

  6. Nolan’s research center seems duplicative, but Anderson’s proposal seems to be way TOO in bed with the foreign copper mining companies. We can’t simultaneously claim we should do it here because of our great regulations and then turn around and slash those regulations if they interfere with the mine. That just defies common sense!

    Copper mining is definitely NOT iron mining. Different ores, different concentrations, and different pollution problems.

    I’ve studied copper mining and talked to a bunch of mining engineers, and there has never yet been ANY copper mine in a wet northern region that has not polluted the nearby water. Some people like to cite the Ladysmith mine in Wisconsin, but monitoring documents clearly and repeatedly show significant pollution seeping into the Flambeau River. And this was most accounts a very small, short lived (5 year) mine.

    I live in Lake County, and I’ll tell you that many of the folks in Isabella DO NOT WANT a copper mine there. At least one of the prominent local logging families is against it. You can’t grow trees on polluted rock piles.

  7. 10s of thousands of jobs for $0 ??

    Really, Joe from Da Range?

    The current best estimates from PolyMet are around 350 operations jobs. The Duluth Metals mine proposal mainly in Lake County is not very far along, by they are saying that their project could be about 2.5 times bigger than Polymet’s project, or perhaps 875 jobs. That would total maybe 1250 jobs. Even including indirect and induced “multiplier effect” jobs, we’d optimistically, best case scenario, reach 2,500 jobs. Maybe.

    Of course, what is delivered is usually less than what the companies promise, we might actually only get 1,000 mining and perhaps 1,000 multiplier effect jobs. Not small, but not 10,000s of jobs.

    But what about all the other jobs that would be lost to create these jobs?

    Already, property values in Isabella are going through the floor because of the exploration. This means less home development and less residential construction. Outfitters and resorts that have been there for generations would be put out of business – no one wants to vacation next to an active copper mine or polluted lakes. Lands formerly managed for timber would become active mines – reducing logging opportunities.

    Reduced recreation would have a large trickle down effect on businesses in Ely, Finland, Silver Bay, Two Harbors and even Duluth – less traffic for forest recreation means fewer stops at outdoor stores, bait shops, tourist shops, restaurants, etc.

    There are also the up front infrastructure costs usually born by local governments – new roads, upgrades to existing roads, development costs around the mine site, etc.

    And then there are the long-term costs to the taxpayers through cleaning up messes inevitably left by the company, especially after shutdown. Witness, for example, the $13 million barrel cleanup in Silver Bay, which far exceeded the $2 million left behind by Reserve Mining. And that was just leaky oil drums, not copper mine waste. With copper mines, cleanup costs are typically in the hundreds of millions and the messes are often impossible to truly clean up. And there are social costs associated with pollution – loss of clean groundwater for drinking and commercial uses, loss of fishing opportunities, diseases, and raised health care costs etc.

    So lets not kid ourselves.
    With copper mining, we would gain many jobs, but we will loose many other jobs, and there would be significant infrastructure and extremely large cleanup costs to the taxpayers.

    As with all things, there is no free lunch.

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