Freshman Iron Range lawmaker hit on mining claims

I’ve been writing how this summer is building toward a contention boiling point on the nonferrous mineral mining issue. We’re waiting for PolyMet to release its updated EIS after the EPA rejected its last one. Over in Wisconsin we’ve seen much more sharp-edged protesting and company overreaction to local mining debates than we have seen here in Minnesota.

Minnesota environmental activist Nathan Ness sent me the video you’ll see below. The video combines comments taken from a post-election Mesabi Daily News interview by freshman State Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) and juxtaposes them with clips pulled from an impromptu questioning of Metsa at a pro-mining event on the Iron Range.

Firedoglake ran this already, and you can find the original video on YouTube, where the comments section is already in full swing.

I’m not here to endorse or condemn the content of the video. It is very much smash-edited with a point of view opposed to mining. Still, Ness’s questions deserve a thoughtful response, and I’m hoping we get to the heart of this thing sooner than later.

Ness argues that it’s time to stop being “Minnesota Nice,” with the polite exchange of soundbites, and get into the reality of the debate. This more aggressive approach certainly indicates a tone that will only amplify as the summer wears on.

Of course, the most important thing to find out is not what Metsa said and when about whether or not some environmentalists lied about one thing or the other. The important thing is to find out whether the economic impact of new mining is worth the environmental risk. Or whether the companies involved are willing to finance the technology and environmental protections they promise at this early stage. Or whether these companies will finance the projects, period, given the fact that some stakeholders will certainly go to court to stop these projects.

The video fails to move the needle on my own conflicted opinions about nonferrous mining projects in northeastern Minnesota. I’m again left with questions, not answers.

I continue to believe that, as a region, effort spent to diversify our economy would be much more valuable than working ourselves up over this debate. We’ve lost 40 percent of our population and half our mining jobs — thousands of them — since 1980. Mining opponents must suggest alternative economic plans. Mining supporters must acknowledge that new mining jobs are a small percentage of the kinds of work and workers we’ll need for this area to prosper.


  1. To me the core of the matter is that our laws in Mn vary by who owns the surface estate. The push that is on to do land exchanges is about switching which set of laws apply. The most destructive and permissive are School Trust ownership laws. That’s why the mining advocates want the exchanges. They remove legal protection of the lands which are right in the deeds for the surface property at Polymet. We are seeing the stage set for the ruin of the Arrowhead region.

  2. I disagree Aaron. Ness is implying that Metsa is lying about environmentalists spreading misinformation. The video leaves Metsa looking bad because he is “Minnesota nice.” Jason Metsa took the high road and tried to diffuse the situation so he can continue with the business of the meeting, which was from what I was told by someone who was there and is in the video, was about distributing We Support Mining signs. Because Jason Metsa didn’t have the information at his fingertips at the time of the confrontation here is a screenshot of Ness’ Facebook where he gets caught fabricating a story about Glencore (major backer of Polymet) killing union leaders, it starts on page 9. One of the themes these environmental activists are presenting is that Glencore is evil and will essentially be running Polymet:

    Ness’ friend even tells him there is no documentation to support the murder claims.

    Here is Ness again making the same claim on video. He claims he has citations but from his single Facebook citation we all know it doesn’t say what he claims it does:

    Nathan Ness isn’t about Minnesota nice. He’s a cutthroat player in this game out to make a name for himself by achieving the goals of the extremist environmentalists. One of the reasons he and his crew went to the meeting was to disrupt it and stop mining supporters from making progress. He has no regard for the economic welfare of the Range, in fact, he has contempt for Iron Rangers and our culture calling us “sellouts” and implying we are ignorant hicks because we are willing to let the regulatory agencies decide if strategic metals mining is safe instead of listening to him.

    Yes, one of the discussions we need to have is whether or not the economic benefits are worth the environmental risk, but how do you have a conversation with people who are exaggerating the environmental risk and are ignoring or downplaying the economic benefits? These people are hell bent on broadcasting their one-sided, distorted message to the general public who don’t have the time to fact check the complicated information. These links are just one example of the tall tales the anti-mining activists tell. As soon as somebody sets straight the record they just move on to a new tale. It’s almost impossible to keep up with them and who knows the damage their side has done to properly informing the public.

    If we are going to have a discussion about the economic benefits Minnesota will have from this mining it is only fair to have a discussion about the economic benefits these environmental groups have by opposing strategic metals mining. The truth is if these environmental groups do not have a crisis they lose funding and start to look irrelevant.

    Ness is a paid organizer from the Twin Cities. Iron Rangers should be outraged that he is up here attempting to not only influence our economy but now our political process as well for his own benefit at our expense. The Iron Range should consider Ness enemy #1 not only for the economic and political issues but also for his personal contempt for Iron Rangers and our culture.

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