ELY, Minn. — This northwoods town is quiet and closed up for the winter — no throngs of tourists, the snowy streets largely empty. But there’s a range of emotions running among residents from hope and excitement to angry defiance.
The Biden administration’s decision last week to cancel the leases for the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine marked another dramatic turn in a dispute that has roiled this Iron Range community for decades: Does mining play a role in its future or is it firmly in the past?
Ely is a major gateway to the immaculate Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and some say that tourism is the town’s way forward. But mining proponents vowed to fight “We don’t stop,” said Ely Mayor Roger Skraba, a mining advocate and Boundary Waters guide. He described the lease cancellation as a hindrance, not the end.
The underground Twin Metals mine would produce about 20,000 tons of ore a year for 25 years, for copper, nickel and cobalt, and generate 750 direct jobs.