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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

The fearful politicians

Local leaders don’t want the answers a Forest Service mining study might yield


As we report this week, political backers of the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near Ely have made progress in seeking to undermine federal funding for an ongoing study of the potential effects of sulfide mining within the Boundary Waters watershed.

It’s all part of a push by Eighth District Congressman Rick Nolan and many local politicians to re-establish mineral leases for Twin Metals which the Obama administration cancelled back in December and to head off any examination of some of the economic downsides of copper-nickel mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters.

Sadly, such battles are too often simply about the fight, and the politics of the fight, rather than part of an overall strategic vision that has the potential to move the region’s economy forward.

In this case, Twin Metals mine supporters appear focused on scoring a political victory, without any consideration of the risks such a victory could entail.

The obvious question to supporters of restoring mineral leases for Twin Metals is, what happens if you get what you want?

Restoring mineral leases to Twin Metals will not make an uneconomical mine financially viable. The 43-101 pre-feasibility study published by the company in 2014, showed a very marginal rate of return on an incredibly expensive and risky project— even while assuming metal prices at historic highs. At current metal prices, you may as well light pallets of $100 bills on fire.

Supporters of the mine, like Congressman Nolan, say we have to let Twin Metals do their drilling so we know what kind of resources are there. “We can’t be afraid of exploration,” he likes to say.

That, of course, is just rhetoric. Rep. Nolan and other Twin Metals supporters know full well that Twin Metals spent years drilling that ore body and had already downsized its exploratory workforce because that phase of the project is largely completed. We already know what’s there. The question is whether the risks, both environmental and economic, associated with mining that deposit are justified— and that’s a question that the ongoing study that Nolan is hoping to quash is expected to answer. Apparently, Nolan only likes certain kinds of exploration, and certainly not the kind that asks the probing questions— such as, would copper-nickel mining help or hurt the Ely area economy?

It’s the key question, and it’s far from settled. As we reported a few weeks ago, the incomes generated by residents of Ely’s outlying townships are a key driver of the local economy, and as many as a quarter of those residents (many of whom are high income) could leave if sulfide mining were to occur on the edge of the Boundary Waters. That’s based on an extensive 2014 survey by the University of Minnesota-Morris that looked at the attitudes of residents in the four townships surrounding Ely. If even half that number left, the loss of local income in the Ely area could easily match the additional income generated by mining wages from the Twin Metals project. Add in the potential of lost tourism dollars if even a quarter of Boundary Waters visitors opt to visit elsewhere, and Ely loses ground economically as a result of mining. That’s just math, and it’s the kind of math that the ongoing Forest Service study is expected to examine.

Which is exactly why the politicians are so eager to kill it. Here’s the reality. Despite the claims of the Eeyore crowd in Ely, the community maintains the most vibrant and diversified small town economy of any community in our region. It has an economic model in place that is working. Is it perfect? Of course not. Small towns face enormous challenges everywhere to sustain economic viability in the face of a long list of trends that would just as soon wipe them off the map. Ely has been successful because it is home to iconic amenities that continue to attract new residents to the area, and those residents bring incomes and economic benefits along with them. And the moment that supporters of Twin Metals are forced to acknowledge this fact, and admit that mining has the potential to kill or maim the golden goose represented by Ely’s outlying townships and the amenity-based economy that has developed in the community, the economic argument in favor of mining goes up in smoke.

So they will fight tooth and nail to prevent an independent analysis of such critical questions. And, sadly, they are happy to continue to wage, for decades, a political battle that bitterly divides the community, harming Ely’s economy every step of the way. And in the end, after all the fighting, the mine is unlikely to ever open because the project costs are simply too great. But at least the politicians will be able to score their political points. In the end, that’s all this is really about.


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  • This is not just a political battle. This is for the survival of the small communities of NE Minnesota. Tourism has been on a steady decline for almost a decade with no end in sight. The USFS keeps tightening the regulations concerning the BWCAW making it harder for people to enjoy the wilderness area. At last count there are 26 businesses for sale just in the city of Ely. If you can truthfully call that a thriving economy your definition is different then mine. Twin Metals and PolyMet are the ray of hope these communities have been looking for over the past decade. They give the chance of good paying jobs with benefits that you don't find with the tourism industry. The technology is there to do this type of mining in an environmentally safe manner protecting both the land and the water. I know all you hear is the doom and gloom from the anti mining factions, but listen to the pro mining side and the facts instead of the emotion driven pleading of the antis. If we do not seize this opportunity for our communities we will see the loss of the hospital in Ely and ever dwindling enrollment in our schools. Tower for one should know what happens when the enrollment gets to low to sustain both an elementary and a high school. We on the pro mining side of this do not want that to happen. We want to see our communities revitalized and become thriving economically again. We just want a fair chance and for the government to follow long established policies instead of changing the rules to suit a few selfish elitist environmentalists needs.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2017 Report this

  • Minnesota Miners, whoever they are, reside in an alternate, fact-free universe. I will begin with the last sentence of their comment. The Big Lie that the environmental study by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management constitutes a failure to "follow long established policies" and amounts to "changing the rules" is one of the routine prevarications by the Antofagasta boosters. The process that is currently underway to determine whether 234,328 acres of National Forest lands near to and upstream from the Boundary Waters should be withdrawn from the federal mineral leasing program for 20 years is specifically authorized by two longstanding U.S. laws: the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Both were passed in the 1970s and have been applied many times, by both Democratic and Republican administrations, to evaluate threats to lands owned by the people of the United States. Antofagasta and its handmaidens like Rick Nolan want to stop the study not because it applies the wrong rules but because it applies precisely the right rules. They expect that the outcome will be a finding by the Trump Administration that sulfide-ore mining southeast of Ely would devastate thousands of acres of land in the Superior National Forest, irreparably damage priceless lakes and rivers inside and outside the BWCAW, and result in huge harm to businesses and to individuals who own property, live, and work in the area. The idea that sulfide-ore copper mining at some indeterminate time--but unquestionably many years in the future--is essential to the survival of small communities in northeastern Minnesota is laughable. Ely has survived for 50 years since the last mine closed here because it's in a beautiful, healthy natural landscape in which people want to live and work. More people with ideas and energy and money to invest in the community are moving here steadily. The idea that sulfide-ore copper mining would be better than the sustainable economy that Ely currently enjoys is belied by a section of the Polymet DEIS in which Polymet admits that its employment projections can't be relied upon because technology is constantly driving down employment in mining. The history of taconite employment on the Mesabi Range proves the point. Antofagasta, a giant sophisticated international mining company, would use technology to minimize employment. The result of an Antofagasta mine would be devastated land and water, a population flight and precipitous decline in visitors, and a huge economic blow to the Ely area. Declining school enrollment and healthcare facility consolidation are a fact of life for rural communities across the country; a copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters won't change that. To allow a Chilean company to destroy public lands and pollute public waters in order to mine minerals owned by the people of the United States--thereby delivering a body blow to the natural assets that sustain our community--would be mindless almost beyond comprehension. The assertion that supporters of the current study of the impact that sulfide-ore copper mining would have on the Superior National Forest constitute a small, marginal "elite" is of course completely false. Multiple polls, including one by a Republican-oriented polling firm of national stature, show consistently that the people of Minnesota, including the people of the 8th District, support the study. Finally, the assertion that technology would allow Antofagasta to mine without harming land and water is a fairy tale. Antofagasta's own communications confirm the destruction of vast areas of land within the Superior National Forest. As for water--every sulfide-ore mine pollutes water. Every one. The only technology that would protect land and water would be technology that spirits copper and other metals out of the ground without marring the landscape and without disturbing the sulfides that permeate the ore. In other words, magic.

    Thursday, September 14, 2017 Report this

  • Thank you Reid for proving one of my points. Right in the beginning and then continually through your comment was nothing but the doom and gloom I mentioned in my previous comment. NEPA is established for existing plans for either mines or test drilling on National Forest lands. There currently is NO proposed mine plan put forth by Twin Metals. On the other hand they were in the process of test drilling when the leases were not renewed and this whole mess started. By the way your side of this never mentions the 6 year EIS performed to cover the test drilling. When the EIS was completed in 2012 both the USFS and BLM signed off on not just Twin Metals drilling but 20+ other mineral leases in the Superior National Forest. Why is it you don't mention that. The economy in Ely is not sustainable and you know it. You keep quoting 250,000 visitors to the BWCAW and it hasn't been anywhere near that for almost a decade. You tell me when driving down the Main Street in Ely between November and May if it looks like a vibrant economy. People are barely surviving and the retiring people that come here are not investing in the community. They have come here for their own private little serfdom. The last thing this town needs is another tourist related stores that pay minimum wage for 5 months out of the year. We need good paying jobs that will come from mining. Those jobs will be provided by Twin Metals and PolyMet. If you haven't looked around the 21st century is here. Technology has advanced to the point that risks are at a bare minimum and the gains can be great for both the local economy and the state as a whole. Quit dredging up mines from long ago and trying to use them as examples. Eagle Mine and before that Flambeau in Wisconsin are either operating or had operated without any environmental violations. The reason we do this isn't for ourselves ,but for the future generations of NE Minnesotans.

    Thursday, September 14, 2017 Report this

  • Becky Rom

    The real threat to the long-term health (economic, social, political) of the Ely area and the rest of the Arrowhead is the kind of denial of reality (I won’t assume dishonesty) on display in the latest comment by Minnesota Miners (MM). First, the writer, whoever s/he is, clearly has not read or does not understand NEPA. NEPA establishes an environmental review process for proposed federal actions, not for private mine plans. The NEPA EIS process currently underway is a result of the proposed federal action of a 20-year withdrawal from the federal mineral leasing program of 234,328 acres of mineral rights owned by the people of the United States. The EIS will examine the environmental, economic, and social impacts on the Boundary Waters, other Superior National Forest lands, and the community if mining leasing were allowed in this sulfide-bearing ore. The science of mining in sulfide-bearing ore, the industry’s record of destruction and pollution, and the value and vulnerability of the waters and lands involved will all be studied, along with many other relevant questions. More than 125,000 people have submitted comments to the Forest Service/BLM, and more than 3,000 attended listening sessions around the state. The Superior National Forest belongs to the people of the United States, and the people are making their voices heard, no matter how much Nolan, Emmer, and MM may want to stifle them. The earlier EIS to which MM refers was so limited as to be irrelevant to the broader question of whether sulfide-ore mining should be allowed in the Boundary Waters watershed; the issue was prospecting permits, not mineral leases as asserted by MM. MM also helps perpetuate the myth that Antofagasta/Twin Metals was still prospecting; in fact, as Marshall pointed out, Antofagasta/Twin Metals was done prospecting. By August 2014, the company had announced that it was winding down exploratory drilling and had laid off workers. One of MM’s most tired and silly arguments is that Flambeau (Wisconsin) and Eagle (Michigan) justify mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters; those are apparently the only two copper mines that mining supporters are willing to talk about. Flambeau operated for four years; the mine covered 38 acres in high-grade ore. By contrast, Antofagasta/Twin Metals either controls or seeks to control about 70,000 acres of low-grade, sulfide-bearing ore in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. Flambeau is polluting groundwater and surface water; it wasn’t in violation of its permit because the State of Wisconsin gave it permission to pollute. The Flambeau mining company admitted that water will be polluted for thousands of years. Eagle Mine, which has been operating only since 2014, is discharging sulfide-ore particulates into the air over the Salmon Trout River. The company reneged on a promise to install a baghouse to capture the particles. Yes, MM, we are in the 21st Century, and the 21st Century state-of-the art mine at Mount Polley, British Columbia lost its tailings dam in 2015 and dumped millions of gallons of toxic sludge into important salmon waters. I don’t see that you mentioned that. Nor did you mention the giant collapse of the Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah. The list of modern mine disasters would fill a good-sized book. MM’s claims that the economy of Ely is not sustainable and I supposedly know it, and that retired people are not investing in the community, are entirely bizarre. Ely has been stable and sustainable for 50 years, since the last mine here closed, because of the proximity of the Boundary Waters and the wonderful lands and waters of the Superior National Forest. It’s a fabulous place to live. Retirees don’t invest in the community? Tell that to Ely’s plumbers, electricians, carpenters, hardware stores, lumber yard, grocery stores, variety stores, propane companies, oil companies, gas stations, liquor stores, hair salons, clothing stores, restaurants, sandwich shops, coffee shops, galleries, outfitters, small engine shops, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians, massage therapists, and farmers (not sure who I might have left out). Ask them what the impact would be on their businesses if retirees didn’t spend money with them. Finally, having copper mines in the watershed of the Boundary Waters would have an impact on future generations of northeastern Minnesotans all right—it would guarantee that they would either live in a land of destroyed forests, poisoned waters, and impoverished communities, or move away.

    Friday, September 15, 2017 Report this

  • Nice try on the NEPA angle. The proposed EIS or any EIS has to meet 2 criteria. Either the agency must be proposing a development or a private entity must be proposing one. Neither of these are being met concerning the proposed study in the Superior National Forest. The USFS nor the BLM is developing anything and at this time Twin Metals isn't either. So we are back to the what exactly is there to study. This type of preemptive study was tried concerning the Pebble Mine in Alaska. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt dropped the study stating that there was already longstanding policies in place at both the state and federal levels to handle this without doing a preemptive study. The same holds true here through the same process that PolyMets NorthMet mine has been subjected to for over 13 years. You and I both know that Minnesota has some of the most stringent environmental laws in the US. I for one along with many others want that to play out just like it should. No need for preemption they will have to meet the same requirements as any other project once they submit a proposal.

    Now we get back to the EIS from 2012 concerning drilling in the Superior National Forest. This study took 6 years to compile and covered everything from Non invasive species to social economic impact. just in case you never read it here is the link. This should more than suffice for Twin Metals to at a minimum retain their leases.

    Flambeau mine was a small scale mine that only lasted 4 years, but any potential pollution has been re mediated and the area is now a wonderful recreation area. I have read the Wisconsin DNR report concerning any potential pollution and Flambeau has met all the targets set forth by the state. The one Clean Water Act violation was overturned in appeals court. Mt. Polley is another instance where an outside agency was a contributing factor to a problem. Mining company applied for water discharge permits to control the level of water in their tailings basin. 2 years later the British Columbia govt. finally issues the permit at a vastly lower rate than requested. Dam fails from excessive pressure cause a spill into the river. Reclamation has been ongoing since then and currently you can hardly tell what happened. Oh and your claim to it doing damage to the salmon grounds. There has been little to no affect to those. Finally lets address the Bingham landslide. I am not sure why you brought this up since it was self contained within the pit, the mining company knew it was going to happen and took precautions and no environmental damage was done. The company reconstructed the haul road and went back into full production no harm no foul.

    Finally investment. When I talk investment I don't mean buying something at a local store because we all do that. Investment to me and most people means doing something to bring new business into the community. I do not see that happening. There are many storefronts sitting empty along Main Street. These do not bring jobs, tax revenue or hope to our community. We need the jobs that will be provided by PolyMet and Twin Metals to bring businesses to those empty buildings now thats investment.

    Saturday, September 16, 2017 Report this

  • It’s too bad that Minnesota Miners (MM) isn’t posting under her/his/their real name(s.) Failing that, MM could at least be honest enough to post under “Chilean Miners,” because the writing is clearly at the behest of Antofagasta. MM/Chilean Miners, please cite for the readers—better yet, quote with citations—the section of NEPA that says “Either the agency must be proposing a development or a private entity must be proposing one.” MM/Chilean Miners won’t be able to, because NEPA establishes an environmental review process for federal actions, which is vastly different from mere federal or private development. The federal action that generated the current EIS process for the Boundary Waters watershed is a proposed FLPMA withdrawal of land from the federal mine leasing program. The reason that the Forest Service proposed the withdrawal is that professional land managers—not political appointees—determined that copper mining in the SNF would be devastating to land and water owned by the people of the United States. Precisely the same kind of proposed federal action led to the development of an EIS that resulted in the 2012 withdrawal of a million acres of federal minerals from leasing around the Grand Canyon. EIS processes are underway currently because of the same kind of proposed federal action in the Paradise Valley, Montana; the Methow Valley, Washington; and around Oregon Wild and Scenic Rivers. I think that MM/Chilean Miners knows that, and is misrepresenting NEPA for the purpose of trying to confuse the issue in the minds of readers. That’s standard mining industry practice.

    As for MM/Chilean Miners’ reference to Pebble Mine and PolyMet, it’s more of the same mining industry dishonesty. Neither is relevant to the process underway with respect to the Boundary Waters watershed. Setting aside the obvious greed and stupidity driving a proposal to put a mine on the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the specific issues there revolved around the Clean Water Act. That statute has nothing to do with the Boundary Waters watershed EIS. As for PolyMet, the minerals involved there are privately owned, so a withdrawal was not an option, which means the legal process is entirely different. The minerals, lands, and waters under study in the Boundary Waters watershed belong to the people of the United States.

    The reason for the current Boundary Waters watershed environmental study is to determine whether this is simply the wrong place for a sulfide-ore mine. Referring to the EIS process as a “preemptive study” is another misrepresentation by MM/Chilean Miners. The study grew out of specific interest by Antofagasta and other companies in mining in the watershed. Antofagasta has sued to compel the issuance of mining leases (calling them “exploration leases,” as some of Antofagasta’s friends do, is another misrepresentation) and a bill has been introduced in Congress on Antofagasta’s behalf to compel the issuance of mining leases. To claim that no “mine plan” exists is sophistry. The Antofagasta pre-feasibility study (43-101) shows mine sites, the processing plant, and pipelines. But the main point is that a specific mine plan is irrelevant. The nature and history of mining in sulfide-bearing ore are extremely well-known. No technology exists or is foreseeable that would prevent the destruction and pollution of many thousands of acres of land and water (surface and ground). The impact of that mining and destruction on the Boundary Waters, the rest of the SNF in the watershed, and on the people who live in the area is the reason for the study, and it is obviously timely in light of the relentless push by Antofagasta to get the right to mine.

    Anyone who knows anything about Iron Range taconite mines knows that MM/Chilean Miners’ assertion about Minnesota’s “stringent environmental laws” is a bad joke. The industry flouts the laws and refuses to comply, and the Range delegation is constantly chipping away at the statutes and regulations.

    As MM/Chilean Miners knows, the prior EIS was for exploration permits for a limited time, not the permanent mine leases that Antofagasta seeks. The impact of preparing drill sites and drilling for core samples is a tiny fraction of the impact of mines and their many thousands of acres of infrastructure, operating over decades. To claim otherwise is to deny reality.

    MM/Chilean Miners knows perfectly well why I raised the issue of the massive landslide in the Bingham Canyon copper mine that buried millions of dollars of equipment and put the mine out of operation for months. I could also have mentioned mining industry disasters in West Virginia (where a coal mining industry solvent tank leak a few years ago poisoned the Kanawha River and wiped out the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people for many days), and in Mexico, Romania, Italy, and many other countries. A peer-reviewed scientific study using Antofagasta/Twin Metals’ own information shows that mines in the South Kawishiwi/Birch Lake area will pollute the Boundary Waters under normal operations. It doesn’t even take into account the kind of catastrophic failure of pipelines, dams, water treatment, etc., that routinely happens in industrial operations (mines, railroads, fertilizer plants, refineries, pipelines, etc.). It took years for the effects of DDT on birds of prey to come to light; to claim that the toxic pollution from Mount Polley won’t have an effect on salmon is wishful thinking at best.

    True to form, MM/Chilean Miners want to define “investment” in their own way and then claim retirees don’t invest. No competent economist or business development professional would buy that analysis. The single most important factor in developing and maintaining sustainable communities is building on what exists now. (Another strong business area that exists in Ely now, and which I left out of my prior list, is financial services—two banks, at least two insurance agencies, at least one investment advisor. I also left out IT consultants, accountants, and electronics stores—all of which we have). And I made a mistake in limiting my earlier comments to retirees; Ely has survived for 50 years since the end of mining partly because of tourism, but mostly because of second-home owners, retirees, and people who have moved to Ely and started businesses. A recent study by the University of Minnesota-Morris makes clear that a lot of those people will leave if copper mining comes to the Boundary Waters watershed. Copper mining would devastate this economy. If MM/Chilean Miners and Ely politicians and Range politicians had the courage and sense to consider the unlimited downside of copper mining, they would have attended Tuesday Group at GEL (another great Ely institution and employer) last week and listened to Marshall’s carefully reasoned and very sobering economic analysis. But doing that would have jarred their preconceived notions and required some hard thinking—which is in very short supply.

    Finally, no, we don’t “all do that” when it comes to shopping in Ely. If you could get honest answers from a lot of the people who scream the loudest in favor of copper mining, and from the relatively few people around Ely who work in mining, they would tell you that they are shopping at SuperOne, Menard’s, and Target in Virginia.

    Copper mining in the Boundary Waters watershed would bring poison and destruction to land, water, and the well-being of people that is outside the previous experience of this area.

    Saturday, September 16, 2017 Report this

  • I have been honest throughout our discussions. I am not a shill nor do I have any direct interest in either Twin Metals or Antafagosta. It is my choice to comment under whatever name I chose to. When I looked up NEPA it clearly states the the 2 criteria are either a development by an agency or private entity. Does not reference any kind of federal action unless that is your interpretation.

    Pebble mine does have direct correlation to what is happening here. In both cases a preemptive action is being taken to try and stop something before any proposal has been put forth. In the case of the Pebble mine the EPA had the good sense to realize there is policies in place already without having to go down the road of preemption. If only the Obama administration had the same good sense when it comes to our issue. You bring in the pre feasibility study put forth by Duluth Metals. This was a requirement of the Canadian govt due to the fact at that time the parent company was based in Canada not the US or Chile. Since your brought the pre feasibility study up lets do some fact checking on that. In a Tuesday group meeting Becky Rom stated that Twin Metals was going to mine on the Spruce Road and cause irreparable damage to Voyageurs Outward Bound. Now I don't know if this was an omission on her part or dishonesty, but if you continue to read further it clearly states that they have NO intention of mining on the Spruce Road.

    Finally every study I have seen except for the slanted ones paid for by the anti mining factions show that copper nickel mining would be a boon for our economy. This goes all the way back to the one completed by the state of Minnesota in 1979. We need this in order to keep this community alive, instead of walking around with your rose colored glasses on take a minute and talk to the people in this community. It is becoming increasing clear that you do not care about the people of NE Minnesota. The only thing you care about is your own selfish needs.

    Saturday, September 16, 2017 Report this

  • MM/Chilean Miners typifies the sulfide-ore mining industry’s willingness to say anything, without regard to facts or logic, to try to advance its interests. MM/Chilean Miners must be reading Antofagasta’s own fantasy version of NEPA. This is what the relevant section of the real NEPA—the one that’s part of the laws of the United States and not the one that is a figment of the imagination of Antofagasta/MM/Chilean Miners—says:

    Sec. 102 [42 USC § 4332].The Congress authorizes and directs that, to the fullest extent possible: . . .

    (2) all agencies of the Federal Government shall –

    (A) utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decision making which may have an impact on man's environment;

    (B) identify and develop methods and procedures, in consultation with the Council on

    Environmental Quality established by title II of this Act, which will insure that

    presently unquantified environmental amenities and values may be given appropriate

    consideration in decision making along with economic and technical considerations;

    (C) include in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other

    MAJOR FEDERAL ACTIONS significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a

    detailed statement by the responsible official on


    (i) the environmental impact of the proposed action,

    (ii) any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the

    proposal be implemented,

    (iii) alternatives to the proposed action,

    (iv) the relationship between local short-term uses of man's environment and

    the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and

    (v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would

    be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented. (emphasis added by use of all capital letters)

    The relevant regulation under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which provides for federal action in the form of the mineral withdrawal that has been proposed to protect the Boundary Waters, says at 43 CFR Sec.2310.3-2(b)(3) that the applicant for withdrawal—here, the Forest Service—shall provide to the Secretary of the Interior “an environmental assessment, an environmental impact statement, or any other documents as are needed to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.” It’s hard to know what to make of someone like MM/Chilean Miners who would continue to deny that plain language.

    Antofagasta’s public relations position that it doesn’t intend to mine Spruce Road is just another lie, and MM/Chilean Miners is helping to perpetrate the lie. The Spruce Road deposit is the only deposit covered by one of the two mining leases (MNES-01353) that Antofagasta has sued to compel the government to issue and with respect to which Emmer seeks to force issuance through legislation. The amended complaint filed on January 3, 2017 by Antofagasta’s subsidiaries Franconia and Twin Metals in their lawsuit against the government to compel the issuance of this Spruce Road lease as well as the other lease (MNES-01352) says in myriad places that the denial of the leases blocks Antofagasta’s ability to mine the minerals. For example, paragraph 14 of the amended complaint reads as follows in its entirety: “Plaintiff Twin Metals is a privately-owned limited liability mining company, headquartered in Minnesota, THAT FOCUSES ON DEVELOPING AND OPERATING A MINING PROJECT TO PRODUCE THE VALUABLE MINERALS UNDERLYING THE LAND COVERED BY THE LEASES and other minerals.” (emphasis added by use of all capital letters) Thus, Antofagasta has stated in plain English to a federal court that it intends to mine the Spruce Road deposit. Is it the position of MM/Chilean Miners that Antofagasta has committed a fraud on the court?

    As to the facts of the economy of the Ely area, and as to where the real selfish interests are to be found, and as to who really cares for the people of northeastern Minnesota, I believe that the truth is beyond the comprehension of MM/Chilean Miners, whoever she/he/they/it may be.

    Sunday, September 17, 2017 Report this

  • My favorite threat from those against is that if it happens the economy is going to suffer from all or most of them moving away. With good paying mining jobs those places for sale will be scarfed up in a hurry at most likely reduced pricing. I, myself, will probably buy one as a second home. Realtors will see increased business from the sales, banks and financial institutions will be giving new loans. Moving companies will be busy moving families away and happy miner families will be moving back in. I have yet to see a downside to Mr. Rom's threats.

    Monday, September 18, 2017 Report this

  • Stephanie Jacobson is whistling in the dark. Economic studies and responses to scientific poll inquiries are not "threats." They are factual or as close to factual as it's possible to get in context. The regular poverty and high unemployment in mining towns are facts. The cry for help from the Iron Range whenever the industry hits a bump is as predictable as sunrise. That mining is a tiny part of the Arrowhead economy--less than three jobs out of a hundred, and anyone with knowledge of the industry knows it will continue to fall--is a fact. No intelligent copper miner will be buying a house in Ely because s/he won't want to be stuck with it when the bust comes.

    Monday, September 18, 2017 Report this

  • My gut feeling is that there will be no shortage of unintelligent workers up here buying places like yours and others who will move for 50 cents on the dollar. Don't mention boom or bust regarding the mining industry unless you include the boom and bust of the tourism business that happens every summer to winter. Why does our local Dairy Queen close for a couple of months every winter? Because their cash register is too full maybe?

    Sure there will be slow times in the mines. But those slow times are often (like currently) surrounded by many very prosperous years. I, myself am a business owner and a miner here. I have not been layed off in the fifteen years I have worked here. All the mines up here a currently doing very well with no work stopages seen in the near future. Most had a year slowdown around 2008 but before that there was at least six years of prosperity and there has been eight since. This is a risk that myself and many others want to take regarding employment knowing that we will make a good income (average of 68K vs 19K in the tourism business). In fact, most miners make more in unemployment insurance than the tourism employees make year round. These are reasons that we want mining up here.

    Monday, September 18, 2017 Report this

  • Here are is the population of Ely straight from Wikipedia! Please tell me how the town is growing!

    YEAR POP. +/-

    1900 3,717 312.5%

    1910 3,572 −3.9%

    1920 4,902 37.2%

    1930 6,156 25.6%

    1940 5,970 −3.0%

    1950 5,474 −8.3%

    1960 5,438 −0.7%

    1970 4,904 −9.8%

    1980 4,820 −1.7%

    1990 3,968 −17.7%

    2000 3,724 −6.1%

    2010 3,460 −7.1%

    Monday, September 18, 2017 Report this

  • The University of Minnesota-Morris report, the KeyLog study, and Marshall Helmberger's economic analysis (which he presented in detail at Grand Ely Lodge this past Tuesday) show that tourism is only a part of what has sustained Ely for the past 50 years. The Boundary Waters and a healthy national forest attract people who retire here, move here to start businesses or for jobs, or telecommute from Ely. This broad-based economy is far healthier and more sustainable than the economy of any Minnesota mining town. As Bob Tammen says, mining can be great for the relatively few people who have mining jobs, but it's horrible for communities. Mining communities typically feature high unemployment; Minnesota mining towns are no exception. On September 21, 2013, the Mesabi Daily News wrote: “Even though mining . . . is running at near-full capacity, the employment . . . numbers don’t add up anywhere near as well for the Iron Range as the statewide averages . . . . [A] comparison of the statewide employment rate with that of the Iron Range shows the area’s jobless rate is 64 percent higher than the overall Minnesota level.” Senator Dave Tomassoni said: “It’s always a mystery to me why we are lagging in employment when our mining industry is doing so well.” It’s a mystery only to those who have drunk the mining Kool-Aid. The environmental, political, and economic impact of mining drives out healthy, sustainable economic activity—Appalachia, the ghost towns of the West, the Minnesota Iron Range. Yet in the face of persistently high unemployment on the Range, mining boosters take the indefensible position that more boom-and-bust mining will solve all problems.

    Monday, September 18, 2017 Report this

  • And because you are interested in population numbers, here are some U.S. Census numbers for the towns in the heart of the Mesabi Range, surrounded by operating taconite mines and plants:

    1980 2014

    Virginia 11,056 8,649

    Eveleth 5,042 3,698

    Mt. Iron 4,134 2,890

    Gilbert 2,721 1,799

    Chisholm 5,930 5,017

    Anybody who thinks mining will result in anything other than significant population declines and serious economic harm to the people and businesses in the Ely area is denying reality. As to the population numbers you cite for Ely, they fail to tell the story of the growth of year-round and long-term seasonal residents in the townships. The people who sustain Ely by and large live in Morse, Fall Lake, Eagles' Nest, and Stony River. Ask an Ely contractor or electrician or plumber where they are spending the bulk of their time. If we don't destroy the Boundary Waters and other healthy SNF lands that bring people here to visit, spend money, and stay, Ely will have a bright future. If we permit copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters, we condemn Ely to the slow death that the Range towns are fighting to avoid.

    Monday, September 18, 2017 Report this

  • The comment above when posted didn't maintain the separation of columns, but I think it's obvious that the first number listed after each town is from 1980 and the second number is from 2014.

    Monday, September 18, 2017 Report this

  • Reid please tell me what businesses have been started that pay a good living wage in the Ely area. You stated that even though running a full capacity that mining jobs don't add up. Then explain this. Mining and logging saw a 10.7% growth rate over the last year followed by construction at 5.6 %. Where exactly is the tourism industry in this picture. Information and financial services lost jobs. As to Bob Tamminen he is the ultimate hypocrite. Worked his entire life in mining collects a good pension from doing so and then turns on them. I do not put much weight in what he says. Plus it is the same old tired mantra he has used for years.

    Try not calling people names sometime. You might find that people are more likely to engage in a useful discussion if you don't offend them.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Report this

  • Useful discussions are fact-based and analytical. MM/Chilean Miners fails to acknowledge--or maybe even fails to understand--facts and keeps trying to change the subject. Cherry-picking an uptick in shipments from Duluth doesn't change the long-term community disaster of a mining-based economy. And what's logging got to do with the mining numbers? Logging properly done is a sustainable industry that's a huge asset to Northeastern Minnesota. Does MM/Chilean Miners understand that the many thousands of acres of forest that Antofagasta would destroy would be off-limits to all other uses, including logging? Did MM/Chilean Miners understand what is written in the falling population numbers for Mesabi Range towns? Does MM/Chilean Miners understand that automation will continue to relentlessly drive down mining employment? The ultimate impact of an Antofagasta mine would be very few jobs but destroyed land and water--nothing left to build on. And the name-calling complaint from someone like MM/Chilean Miners who calls others "elitist preservationists," "elitist environmentalists," and "hypocrite" is nothing short of hilarious.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Report this

  • The comforting thought here is that Polymet is another step closer and with it's associated success other mining will be just around the corner.

    Mr. Rom - do you need help packing?

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Report this

  • I am not the one who continually loses their temper when confronted by facts. I use the elitist preservationist title for you because it describes both your attitude and ideology. Logging an mining have gone hand in hand in NE Minnesota for as long as I can remember . Does it bother you that much that they are gaining ground in the job sector while other areas are not. This really troubles me since you would think that people having good paying jobs and benefits would make you feel good about the economy and communities on the Iron Range. One other thing I never mentioned an uptick in shipments. What I referenced is the employment rise in both logging and mining. The shipments ebb and flow like the tide and vary from week to week. Not because of demand ,but because of ship availability.

    So continue to spout off with your fear mongering and hateful rhetoric. The longer you continue to do so the less people are going to pay attention to what you are saying.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Report this

  • Stephanie Jacobson, I can see that you are having trouble following the narrative. PolyMet is a poisonous and destructive project that should not go forward, but it's not what creates the existential threat to Ely. As for MM/Chilean Miners, she/he/they/it either do/does not actually read, or do/does not comprehend, or deliberately misrepresent(s), what I write. The ability to willfully ignore a sentence like "Logging properly done is a sustainable industry that's a huge asset to Northeastern Minnesota" is truly remarkable. It's also truly remarkable to pretend that the people who sustain Ely don't exist; to ignore the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property on the South Kawishiwi and Birch Lake--many of which represent a large portion of the life savings of their owners--that would have their value wiped out; to completely disregard the people who have built businesses that thrive because of a healthy National Forest or that work in the outdoor industry and love it and could care less about getting a mining job. They're not part of your tribe, so you don't care.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Report this

  • Yet again you miss the point. The point was the dramatic increase over the past year in both logging and mining employment. I know all about the logging industry in NE Minnesota. My father and grandfather were loggers here until they retired As to your high dollar houses and cabins they are nice ,but yet again will not in the long run sustain this or any other community. I had a lady post a comment concerning what you have been saying and it goes like this. Maybe he should try and work a waitressing job, then go to Shopko and then work another job on top of that to try and make ends meet. If you classify that as a sustainable vibrant economy you are beyond reasoning with because you absolutely do not care about the people in the community .

    Also as I go back over some of the things I tried to discuss with you I notice a trend. When you either don't address the point or don't like it you either resort to name calling or trying to belittle the person. Typical liberal tactic try something more inventive.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Report this

  • One last thing before I am done. Read the following article and take note of #1 fastest growing industries in the labor market. Try that on for size.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Report this

  • MM/Chilean Miners, try this on for size. If you seek to persuade by using data, you should make it relevant data instead of cherry-picking an irrelevant blip that you think makes your case. To use the broad BLS Support for Mining category as evidence that an Antofagasta mine would be good for the Ely area continues the pattern of your either willfully attempting to mislead or failing to understand facts and/or your own statements. This is what the article you link to says about the Support for Mining category; I'm capitalizing relevant parts that you seem to have overlooked: "Support Activities for Mining is a subset of the larger Mining and Logging industry. EMPLOYEES IN THIS FIELD GENERALLY PROVIDE SUPPORT SERVICES (on a contract or fee basis) for the mining and quarrying of minerals, and FOR THE EXTRACTION OF OIL AND GAS." Support Activities for Mining as defined above supposedly added 52,500 new jobs since August 2016. See this article from CNN Money, which shows that it's highly likely that all those jobs are in oil and gas: Antofagasta won't be drilling for oil and gas on the South Kawishiwi. Further, the "growth" that you want me to "try on for size" followed a crash in 2015 when "Mining and Logging" lost 131,000 jobs. And the mining industry knows that it will continue to increase automation and shed jobs. A recent mining industry report by international engineering firm ABB Group says this (

    "The vision is one where, in the future, mines will have

    equipment closer to and people further from the processes.

    Technology, machinery and robotic automation will be doing

    the routine and repetitious jobs, while personnel attend to

    more strategic tasks. Taking people away from the process will reduce cost,

    increase productivity and enhance safety by enabling

    remote monitoring, diagnostics and interventions. It will see

    a skeleton on-site workforce collaborating with external

    specialists and supervisory staff based in remote operations

    centers." Skeleton on-site workforce--do you understand what that means? It means engineers will be sitting in front of computer screens in a metropolitan area operating the mine. Goodbye, Ely.

    This is no surprise to anyone who reads, listens, and understands. It takes only 1/3 as many people to mine copper--or taconite--as it did 50 years ago. The number of miners on the Range mirrors that--I don't have the exact numbers at hand, but about 15,000-16,000 people were Range miners in 1979-1980 and now it's around 5,000, give or take. Let me restate for you in a different way the population numbers that I posted in an earlier message. From 1980 to 2014, the total population of the five towns in the heart of Minnesota's taconite industry--towns surrounded by or close to operating (most of the time) taconite mines and plants--declined from 28,883 to 22,053, or slightly over 23.6%. Each of the five towns lost population in double digit percentage numbers. Your resort to the hoary ploy of accusing me of the things that in fact characterize your posts, and your willful failure to acknowledge the multiple inaccuracies in your prior posts after they are pointed out to you, simply confirm that your support for sulfide-ore mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters is devoid of any rational basis. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    Thursday, September 21, 2017 Report this

  • It occurred to me that some might complain because I didn't show numbers for that great old town of Hibbing (hometown of Bob Dylan and Kevin McHale) to demonstrate further what mining means for Iron Range towns. In 1980, Hibbing's population was 21,193; in 2010, the population was 16,361. It's estimated to have been 16,093 in 2016. That's a 24% decline from 1980.

    Thursday, September 21, 2017 Report this


    I own a business that relies on tourism and to a great amount relies on locals staying around twelve months a year. I am also a miner! And lastly, I am a land owner not too far away from where you live. Lastly, I was born and raised here and love this area more than your transplanted ego could ever love an area. That's a fact Jack!

    Thursday, September 21, 2017 Report this

  • I would never presume to judge who loves what more. All I know is that my love for the area, wherever it falls on the "amount of love" scale, includes a desire to preserve land, water, wildlife, and the people who sustain the community. My love for the area does not include a desire to turn it into an industrial mining district that would benefit a very tiny set of people to the everlasting detriment of millions--truly millions--of others.

    Thursday, September 21, 2017 Report this

  • bonfire

    Hold on there, Mr. Jacobson. You're out of line displaying your hubris that only you and your "tribe' can possibly love this area as much as you'all do. There are people born and raised here, many are second, third generations of immigrants who settled here, those who have always lived here or have replanted themselves here after living away or are new transplants who want to live here forever because they appreciate the assets we that few areas have anymore. Pure arrogance to think other Rangers who don't agree with you that our water will be safe in the hands of vulture capitalists or that they will be the saviors of our economy are not authentic Rangers or that they don't care about our communities as much as you say you do. There are more of us than you know or will acknowledge.

    Thursday, September 21, 2017 Report this

  • Sorry have been busy Reid. Just wanted to leave you with this final thought.


    Saturday, September 23, 2017 Report this

  • MM/Chilean Miners, my focus is on facts, not opinion. Everybody is entitled to her/his own opinion, but not her/his own facts. The Spruce Road deposit, the language of NEPA ("federal actions"), the effect of mining on the towns of the Range and their populations, automation in mining, the consistent pollution by sulfide-ore mines, the reality of the Ely economy and the value of Boundary Waters to the American people. Facts. I could not possibly care less about what you think of my opinion.

    Saturday, September 23, 2017 Report this

  • jtormoen

    I look forward to the March 16 issue ... 2018 ... to see if this thread is still growing

    Sunday, September 24, 2017 Report this

  • Hello, jtormoen. God, I hope not. I have better things to do. But I hate to pass up hanging curve balls.

    Sunday, September 24, 2017 Report this