There are many serious and legitimate reasons why environmentalists, resort owners, and local residents are worried about the prospect of multiple copper/nickel mines here. I can’t understand why our elected representatives for the most part just give lip service to our concerns while working to expedite a hasty permitting process.
But, EVEN IF there were a foolproof guarantee of no toxic acid leakage... and EVEN IF the mining corporations were to promise that at least half of their hires would be folks with local roots... and EVEN IF the extracted precious metals were not exported to foreign buyers but were guaranteed to be kept locally and in the U.S., for value-added new industries and jobs... and EVEN IF the mining corporations were truly committed to correcting infractions rather than simply paying fines as part of the cost of doing business their way…
EVEN THEN many of us fear the consequences of letting the genie out of the bottle! Why? Because once the precedent is set, there will be constant pressure to expand, to sell off more mineral rights, to permit new mining operations. Because there are no guarantees against human error (think Exxon Valdez) or the consequences of ever-increasing natural disasters (as in the devastating flooding in Duluth last year). Because the huge electric power needed to operate these mines may require new coal-burning plants that will threaten our air quality. Because many thousands of acres would be lost for wildlife habitat, berry picking, hiking, hunting and birdwatching.
Because the noise, the trucks, the lights at night, the heavy industry of multiple mining operations just southeast of Ely would change the character of this place.
This is the edge of the BWCAW! We are stewards of a national treasure, a hugely popular destination, a rare place where lives are changed. Ely is on a roll (compared to other small towns!) precisely because of the creation of the BWCAW: the pristine lakes and fresh air, the quiet and beauty, the rich variety of outdoor activities in all seasons. Our community is bustling with festivals, concerts, special events, and tourists. The Ely Elementary School is experiencing a growth in enrollment. These are some of the reasons more and more of us, young and old, are choosing to settle here, to spend locally, to support our community and school. Our envious friends from noisy, congested places come to visit us; we take them on memorable adventures, show them the stars; they take us out to supper, purchase lures and winter clothing and local art — and buy gas for the long drive back to their cities…
Non-ferrous mining presents a very real threat to the way of life many of us love. Just because precious metals have been discovered under this precious landscape doesn’t mean that we are obliged to let (foreign-owned) corporations make big profits by digging them up.
The Bible harshly criticizes Esau, who, because he was hungry, traded his birthright, his inheritance, for a single meal (Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16). Let’s not make the same mistake of selling out our future for the sake of short-term economic gain!
Morse Township, Minn.