Front Row Seat: Book explores culture, conflict on Iron Range – by Jay Gabler (Duluth News Tribune – August 17, 2023)

As a sociological research project, Erik Kojola spent four years talking with people on both sides of the copper-nickel mining debate for “Mining the Heartland.”

DULUTH — Erik Kojola’s paternal grandparents have died, but he thinks the Hibbing couple would have been excited to know their grandchild wrote a book about the Iron Range. At the same time, Kojola believes, they would have been “somewhat dismayed to see some of the conflicts that are going on right now.”

Kojola was speaking via video call last week from the Washington D.C. area, where he lives and works as a researcher for Greenpeace. He was raised out east, but his parents are from the Northland and Kojola got to know the area through family visits.

The researcher, who received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2018, spent four years speaking with people on the Iron Range and elsewhere in Minnesota as part of a project that has culminated in the publication of “Mining the Heartland: Nature, Place, and Populism on the Iron Range” (New York University Press).

According to the publisher’s summary, “‘Mining the Heartland’ shows the negotiation and conflict between two central aspects of the state’s culture and economy: outdoor recreation in the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’ and the lucrative mining of the Iron Range.” The book explores how debates over proposed copper-nickel mines have played out in recent years.

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