REGIONAL— With federal officials weighing whether to renew critical mineral leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine, the company has released a new survey showing support for their …
REGIONAL— With federal officials weighing whether to renew critical mineral leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine, the company has released a new survey showing support for their project among residents of five northeastern Minnesota counties.
The survey, funded by Twin Metals and the trade group MiningMinnesota, asked 400 registered voters of St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Koochiching, and Itasca counties about their views on mining, particularly proposed copper-nickel mines.
“Support for the mining economy and for the development of copper-nickel mining projects is overwhelming across northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range,” said Bob McFarlin, spokesperson for Twin Metals. “This extraordinary support reflects a strong belief that copper-nickel mining can help revitalize the region’s economy, protect the environment and create jobs for generations of Minnesotans.”
When asked specifically about the Twin Metals project, 33 percent of respondents said they strongly supported the proposed mine, 29 percent somewhat supported it, 11 percent somewhat opposed it, and 16 percent strongly opposed it. Eleven percent of respondents said they didn’t know about it or had no opinion.
Respondents showed greater support for mining in general, particularly when it was described as “environmentally responisible.” Eighty-two percent indicated they either strongly or somewhat supported mining in general in the region, while 65 percent expressed similar views for copper-nickel mining in the region.
Respondents expressed 60-percent opposition to any effort to permanently withdraw “all future mining” in the Superior National Forest, although 37 percent indicated support for the idea. At present, no group or organization has proposed prohibiting all future mining within the national forest. Environmental groups have urged federal officials to withdraw those portions of the national forest located within the Rainy River watershed from consideration for future sulfide-based mining, which is known to present a higher risk of environmental damage than traditional taconite mining.
The survey reflected significant differences of opinion from a survey conducted earlier this year, which was funded by environmental organizations. That survey found that 67 percent of Minnesotans and 61 percent of residents in the Eighth Congressional District opposed copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters.
“The mining industry crafted a poll of people from mining communities and then used loaded and misleading questions designed to achieve specific results,” said Becky Rom, of Ely, who serves as national chair of The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “When you contrast this with polling done earlier this year—which polled the entire Eigth Congressional District and the state of Minnesota and used fair questions— it is clear that Minnesotans oppose sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Wilderness.”
The differing survey results point to a significant divide among Minnesotans about the wisdom of new mining activity near the BWCA, and demonstrate that the wording of poll questions can significantly affect results.
But Frank Ongaro, MiningMinnesota executive director, said the results show the depth of support for mining in the region. “Federal agencies should recognize that the region strongly supports existing laws and regulations that both protect the environment and allow and encourage the development of copper-nickel mining projects,” he said.
The latest poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies between Nov.12-14.