[Minnesota] Copper/nickel hearing passionate – by Julia Van Susteren (Mesabi Daily News – February 3, 2015)


Iron Range nonferrous mining issue in St. Paul

ST. PAUL — Proposed copper/nickel/precious mining on the Iron Range, always controversial and stirring strong passions on both sides, once again visited the State Capitol on Tuesday.

Citizens and mining industry supporters all had their say at a Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee hearing in the Senate Office Building. The small meeting room was crowded wall-to-wall with attendees, including many anti-mining advocates, supporters of nonferrous projects, and even a few interested lawmakers.

Executive Director of MiningMinnesota Frank Ongaro opened the meeting by citing various economic and long-term environmental benefits mining contribute to the state, local communities and the world.

Representatives from PolyMet, which is in the environmental impact statement process in advance of permitting for its project at the former LTV Mining Co. site near Hoyt Lakes, and Twin Metals Minnesota, which is not as far along for their projects near Ely and Babbitt, further testified about the importance of their ventures.

Representatives of various citizens’ groups argued passionately against the proposed mining projects, citing loss of tourism interest, contamination of pristine environments, and loss of personal property.

But when a family advocated against losing their land to private interests, Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, reminded them that Minnesota property owners, including himself, sign a lease
agreement allowing mining interests to supersede their ownership.

According to Ongaro, the United States consumes 1.9 million tons of copper every year while only producing 1.2 million tons in 2013, which he said amounts to a zero production sum.

Despite already significant successes in Minnesota mining, Ongaro said, Minnesota has much to gain from expanding mining interests.

“Every baby born in 2014 in America will use over 3 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in their lifetime,” said Ongaro. “And these are the metals that all of us use every day. Look at the metals in this room with our laptops, our cell phones, and everything else that goes into the equipment. Our electricity, our plumbing, copper drives a lot of things in our lives, including alternative energy.”

Minnesota’s Iron Range boasts the second largest copper deposit and the third largest nickel deposit in the world, Ongaro continued, and this abundance would contribute significantly towards growing demands for sustainable energy.

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