As PolyMet, Twin Metals mines clear hurdles, cities hope for economic boost.
EVELETH, Minn. – At the new Boomtown Woodfire restaurant in this Iron Range city, diners can order the Steelworker prime rib with a Mesabi’s Best beer and, as the menu states, pay homage to the miners who dug the state’s mining industry out of a deposit of rich iron ore.
It’s a heritage many here hope will come roaring back, perhaps as soon as this summer, after officials granted the state’s first copper-nickel mine its final approvals last week.
“We’ve been talking for years about how to get ready,” said Biwabik Mayor Jim Weikum. “It’s been hard to keep people’s spirits up. You want people to be excited and to know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it was a really long tunnel.”
After 14 years of regulatory back-and-forth and a pitched environmental battle that’s ongoing in the courts, northern Minnesota’s mining industry celebrated a double win last week when PolyMet Mining Corp. cleared its last obstacle with state regulators while federal officials opened a path for a second mine just outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The expectation that the mines will launch a new era for the Iron Range has towns planning for new growth, though analysts said expectations should be tempered by the unknown. In Aurora, there’s talk of upgrading the child care options for new families who might move in.
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