U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan on Tuesday told a convention of mining executives that Minnesota can have both mining and a clean environment, and that he’s working to make sure copper mining happens in the state.
Nolan, D-Crosby, who represents Northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range, was the opening speaker at the annual convention of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration Minnesota Section at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
Nolan focused on the convention’s theme of how global economics are affecting both Minnesota’s longstanding iron mining industry and fledgling copper mining prospects — including foreign competition, global overcapacity and low prices.
But he also criticized opponents of potential copper mining projects — projects such as PolyMet and Twin Metals — for ignoring technological innovations that can mitigate mining’s environmental footprint. “The challenges are great. But the opportunities for mining (in Minnesota) are even greater,” Nolan said.
Nolan chided environmental activists for saying mining is incompatible with northern Minnesota’s pristine lakes and woods. But he also reminded the business leaders that it was their counterparts in industry in the 1970s who said U.S. businesses couldn’t afford pollution regulations to clean up air and water.
He reminded the mining crowd of how Duluthians were drinking bottled water for fear of cancer-causing fibers in Lake Superior from dumped taconite iron ore tailings at Reserve Mining in Silver Bay.
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