Frank Ongaro is executive director of Duluth-based MiningMinnesota (miningminnesota.com), which supports the development of metals mining in the state.
From President Obama to Gov. Mark Dayton, elected officials have made jobs a top priority. In Minnesota, one thing is certain: There is no better opportunity for creating thousands of great-paying jobs, providing millions of dollars in tax revenue for local governments and generating more than $2 billion in royalties for our schools than the proposed copper/nickel strategic metals mineral development projects.
Mining already represents 30 percent of our region’s Gross Domestic Product (tourism is 11 percent). And, with the development of these strategic metals projects, we easily can double the size and benefit of the overall mining industry in Minnesota.
Fortunately, we can have these jobs and the spin-off economic benefits they bring — and an environment with clean air and water. There is no debate. We all want the same thing: clean air and clean water.
Some anti-mining groups have been asking questions about keeping our water safe, safeguards and reclamation for leaving a clean site and protection for all of us as taxpayers. Their questions are good ones. Fortunately for all Minnesotans, the state and federal governments have a comprehensive system of statutes, rules, standards and enforcement authority already in place to address all of the concerns.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have many specific water-quality standards and regulations. Companies will be required to have designs and controls in place to meet these comprehensive water-quality and air-quality standards, assuring clean and safe water.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers require a thorough environmental review of potential impacts, and they mandate safeguards to both prevent pollution and to reclaim all mining and processing activity: from the mines to the tailing basins to the waste rock to wetland restoration to the re-vegetation of disturbed ground to closure and to post-closure maintenance. All companies are required to demonstrate they have the necessary safeguards in place and leave the site clean.
As for the taxpayers: Not only will they be protected, they will benefit from significant financial gains from strategic metals development. Payroll and sales taxes will go to the state. Net-proceed taxes benefit local governments. And royalties go to the School Trust Fund, providing revenue to every school district in Minnesota.
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