Is return of metal mining threat to regional economy? – by Stephen Anderson (Houghton Mining Gazette – July 26, 2013)

HOUGHTON – A recent study, which is part of a larger local education campaign, has concluded that a return to metal ore mining and processing would damage the western Upper Peninsula’s economy.

Dr. Thomas Power of the University of Montana Economics Department, through his organization Power Consulting, Inc., recently completed his 109-page report, “The Economic Impacts of Renewed Copper Mining in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.” Power was contracted in September to do the report by Friends of the Land of Keweenaw.

The study recommends that future economic development in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties continue to focus on “economic gardening” – a term coined by the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance describing a focus on nurturing existing businesses and supporting new start-ups – and the protection and enhancement of a “quality of life” amenity-based economy that has emerged over the last 40 years.

The report, which can be found in its entirety at, summarized the following findings in its executive summary: There are significant costs associated with mining activities that tend to offset the positive impacts of the high pay associated with mining jobs.

The economies of the western U.P. have been successfully transitioning away from past reliance on unstable land-based, export-oriented economic activities.

The attractiveness of a place in terms of its social and natural amenities is an important part of that place’s economic base and future economic vitality.

For that reason, economic activities that damage those attractive local characteristics are incompatible with the current sources of economic vitality, and, if allowed to develop, will displace other important economic activities in the region.

The western U.P. has begun to develop a cluster of entrepreneurial manufacturing firms and other supporting firms built around social and cultural assets, high-tech knowledge workers, attractive small urban areas and high-quality recreational amenities.

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