More evidence of the resource curse

Thanks to the Timberjay for reporting on the Bi-national Forum and on my comments about the Resource Curse.  You also reported on those who disagreed with me but that’s what we expect from a newspaper that actually practices journalism.

Ironically, the Ely Echo actually gave a classic example of the Resource Curse by refusing to mention it in their article on the forum.  Domination by the mining industry is well on its way when the local media refuses to report on legitimate skepticism.

In addition to the Resource Curse, mining area residents should be familiar with the economic concept of Opportunity Cost.  Minnesota has rebated hundreds of millions of dollars to the mining industry.  The tax dollars and wetlands that we sacrifice to subsidize the mining industry are a lost opportunity to find a better use for those assets.

Bob Tammen

Soudan, Minn.

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6 comments on this item

Once it gets control,you have a Company Town. Controlled by the company. They know what they are doing. Not good.

The era of domination and indoctrination by the mining industry is still alive in the Range cities. However, enlightened peoople who have made the effort to educate themselves, and find out the real truth regarding the "down side" of mining, the side that never gets printed by the Echo, or at forums such as the one that occured in Virginia a week or so ago, which was dominated by panelists slanted toward mining, are learning about the negative impacts. These people are spreading the real truth that more mining is not the pancea for an economy already suffering badly from tacontie mining. If mining was so good, then where is the prosperity in range cities such as Virginia? With 6 operating taconite mines surrounding the area should not this town be bursting with prosperity Why then are the peeople not better off financially if mining jobs bring such great wages; why is the downtown deteriorating;why are so many families on food stamps and welfare? The landscape surrounging Virginia...riddled by the negative affects of mining, it boast flat mountains of tailing piles. What a hideous landscape. Depressing at best. No wonder these people come to Ely to recreate...no wonder those in Ely who work at Minntac and other Range mines, choose to make the drive to work there each day, rather than live in these cities. They choose to live in Ely with its wilderness and natural beauty, the lakes, the streams, and the opportunities for canoeing and fishing in the BWCA. More mining is not the anwer. It is not sustainable. Look only to the highway #53 issue in Virginia. How much more land will the mining industry gobble up? Google the Resource Curse.

Domination by the Sierra Club is well on it's way when the local media refuses to report on legitimate skepticism. Remember that Bobby.

That out of the way, mining companies no longer contribute positively to the communities where they operate. Oh yes, they place their management people on commissions, committees and even city councils and town boards. But not in an effort to work toward a more wholesome community for all. It's more to have a finger on the pulse of affairs in the community, where they can apply pressure to dissuade measures they are not fond of and generally to keep an eye on local government and it's effects on their desire to operate free of control.

Virginia's troubles began in the mid 70's, about the time of the taconite (and forest products too) boom in construction. Virginia had the opportunity to have a Holiday Inn, but the council at the time protected the demand of the downtown bar owners to not grant a liquor license off Chestnut Street. Then came a once in a century lifetime to have two high quality housing developments in the Midway area. Local real estate agents and slumlords objected to these developments, so the council voted them down. The city commissions at the time were chock full of U.S. Steel management personnel, so no help came from there. With time, the bar owners and slumlords made a ton of money during the boom, they cashed out, leaving both the taverns and remaining housing units in a horrible state of repair. The downtown died, and continues to die today. The next casualty will be the hospital, which the commission's vote, was sold to Essential Health which is the medical health partner of the mining companies. What that means is if you have a claim for injury against a mining company, good luck getting your Essentia doctor to testify on your behalf (in the interest of the patient). Essentia's legal staff will back the mining company.

Are readers getting the story? PolyMet has too many former U.S. Steel managers on the payroll. The probability of them following environmental regulations to the letter of the law is bleak to non-existant. The probability of them following labor laws, such as harassment (see the case of the women at Eveleth Taconite), Americans with Disabilities Act or other EEOC guidelines willfully is non-existant. Don't expect communities and schools to prosper much from this operation.

I feel differently about Twin Metals. From what I understand from reliable sources, their management team is more community oriented. They will have no problems obeying the letter of the law as well as the intent of the law. When it comes to containing the sulfides in the ore, at this time, they look to be trustworthy. I think we should give them a chance to interface will all of us and determine if they will let the community participate in their business operations. I think Ely will look better if these folks get their operation off the ground.

I know I have said it before "Tourism is great for our area but people need to make an income 12 months of the year, not just three months. Don't believe it? The Landing on Lake Vermilion is now open only on weekends until fishing season. This is also true for Wolf Bay. Tell me that the workers at those businiesses can survive on three days of pay per week. One could also say that Tourism is not sustainable because every fall businesses close, workers get layed off and they roll up the sidewalks of Ely at 5:00 pm daily. Unlike the mining business the tourist business is very predictable - tourists coming, tourists gone!

The mines are thriving right now and workers are making a very nice income. The mines over hired by a factor of two back in the late 70's so yes, many workers were displaced. Families with 5 -7 children were common back then. Now, if a family has a third or fourth child people are questioning their sanity!

Steve: I understand your point about tourism. I was trying to point out that while the mines are doing well, as you correctly pointed out in your post, the companies and their employees aren't spending their profits and tremendously large paychecks at local establishments like the Landing or the Wolf Bay Resort.

Most recently, money spent locally most often goes to Fortune Bay (or a variety of other casinos in the area), on trips to the Carribbean, Bahamas, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Orlando and of course, the dreaded Twin Cities. I had a friend who was the last remaining men's clothing merchant in Virginia, once a thriving business, who lamented where people were spending their money these days, despite his efforts to stock trendy suits, sweaters, shoes, shirts, ties, and even work wear. They may buy a boat and motor, a snowmobile, an ATV or gun ammunition, but even those items are being purchased through the internet and picked up some place else. A few car and truck dealers locally gain some purchases, but even those items are increasingly being bought out of town.

While I don't agree with the environmental wackos and their intent to prevent mining altogether for reasons other than the environment, they do make a strong and valid point that having mining in an area does no longer equate to a contribution to the communities in which they are located. Your post concerning the Landing and Wolf Bay are examples. Of course it doesn't help when the teacher's union and the school board close schools in our community, but the American Federation of Teachers are part of the BlueGreen Alliance with the Sierra Club. You can connect the dots there.

Without our natural resources NONE of us would be living here. As wonderful as the BWCA is, not many make a living as an outfitter, except the owners of course. Mining contributes BILLIONS to the economy. Tourists? Not so much. Besides, the traffic after opener is very annoying. Can't wait till Fall when they stay home.

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