Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

The Uncertain Future of the Boundary Waters – by Stephanie Pearson (Outside Magazine – May 20, 2019)

https://www.outsideonline.com/

At 1.1 million acres, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the largest and most popular backcountry destinations in the U.S. and a longtime proving ground for adventurers. But now the region is facing the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining. Stephanie Pearson paddles into the wild.

The new moon is invisible, and the night is black. My sister, Jen, is paddling in the stern. Her shivering wobbles the bow where I’m sitting. Canoeing in 45-degree weather at midnight dressed in T-shirts and underwear is not our normal behavior while camping in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in September.

But an enormous black bear is on its hind legs, ten feet away, aggressively swiping at the food pack dangling from a low tree branch at our campsite. By the sound of its grunts, it’s hungry.

In our panic, we failed to forage for layers. Jen scooped up her sleeping bag and white Labrador, Sunny, I grabbed my knife and headlamp, and we tripped over ourselves to get to the water’s edge, where we launched the canoe. Continue Reading →

Conservation groups ask Court of Appeals to strike down Minnesota’s metal mining rules as too vague – by Jennifer Bjorhus (Minneapolis Star Tribune – May 16, 2019)

http://www.startribune.com/

With a new mining boom on the horizon for Minnesota’s Iron Range, lawyers for a coalition of conservation groups told an appellate panel Thursday that state rules governing metal mining are inadequate to protect the environment.

The case is the first legal test of Minnesota’s environmental rules for copper-nickel mining, and comes as international companies plan the state’s first hard-rock mines: two large copper mines near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) in northeastern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and other advocacy groups filed a petition challenging the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rules last December, shortly after the agency issued a key and final permit to PolyMet Mining Inc. Continue Reading →

Trump administration opens up Minnesota wilderness area to copper mining – by Valerie Volcovici (Reuters U.S. – May 15, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday renewed two mineral leases near the Boundary Waters Wilderness area in Minnesota, a key step in opening the popular wilderness and recreation area up to copper mining despite heavy opposition from local and national conservation groups.

The department’s Bureau of Land Management granted the hardrock mineral leases inside the Superior National Forest to Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, a subsidiary of Chile’s Antofagasta, with the aim of expanding domestic mining of “critical minerals” used in common appliances and products, saying it is beneficial to national security because it reduces foreign imports.

“Mining strategic metals in the United States is beneficial to national security, national and local economies, and job creation,” the Interior Department’s assistant secretary Joe Balash said in a statement. Continue Reading →

Minnesota’s PolyMet Mining move could result in Glencore majority ownership – by Mike Hughlett (Minnesota Star Tribune – May 7, 2019)

http://www.startribune.com/

PolyMet Mining plans to raise $265 million in a stock offering to existing shareholders, a move mainly intended to pay off debt to the company’s longtime backer, mining and commodities giant Glencore.

Depending on how the offering shakes out, Glencore may end up with majority ownership of PolyMet, which plans to develop Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine. Switzerland-based Glencore already owns 29% of PolyMet.

In March, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted PolyMet the last major permit it needs to proceed with the controversial project on the eastern Iron Range. PolyMet still faces several legal challenges to the mine and processing plant, and it must raise money for the $1 billion project. Continue Reading →

Boundary Waters at Risk – by Carlos Rivero Lopez and Jenny Rowland-Shea (Center for American Progress – May 8, 2019)

Center for American Progress

Trump’s Attempts to Shortcut Science and Ignore Local Concerns Are Endangering Minnesota Wilderness

In early April, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) faced off against Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue during a hearing of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.

The congresswoman lambasted Perdue for the last-minute cancelation of a two-year study meant to determine if mining should be allowed on the doorstep of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the nation’s most visited wilderness area.1 The study was canceled 20 months into the 24-month review.

“Twenty months of collecting public input, 20 months of science-based assessment, and all you released was a one-page press release,” objected McCollum, calling the press release “completely inadequate.” Continue Reading →

Minnesota environmentalists step up fight against Twin Metals’ copper project – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – May 6, 2019)

http://www.mining.com/

A coalition of businesses, environmental advocates and outdoor recreation groups in the state of Minnesota, U.S., have gone to court challenging a Trump administration’s decision that opened the door to a copper, nickel and platinum project in a wilderness area.

Chilean miner Antofagasta (LON:ANTO), through its subsidiary Twin Metals, is in the midst of carrying out a feasibility study for the project, an underground copper-nickel mine and processing facility along the shores of Birch Lake and the South Kawishiwi River, which lie in the Rainy River watershed.

It’s the location of the project which has triggered concerns among locals. Last week, more than two dozen former U.S. Forest Service staffers sent a letter to the government, outlining the risks a proposed mine in the area would carry. Continue Reading →

Opinion: They tell you surprisingly little before sending you home from the hospital with… – by Aaron J. Brown (Hibbing Daily Tribune – February 9, 2019)

https://www.hibbingmn.com/

Like a lot of kids who grew up on Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range during the economic crisis of the 1980s and ‘90s I saw plenty of reasons to leave. Many of my friends did. But I’m glad I found good reasons to stay. Many friends did that, too. That doesn’t mean, however, that our lives are easy or our fate resolved.

When I was in college, I saw the movie “October Sky.” This 1999 film tells the true story of a boy and his friends who, during the Cold War space race, launch their own rocket from a West Virginia coal mining town. They win the national science fair with help from the folks back home.

I also sought out the 1941 Best Picture winner “How Green Was My Valley.” This story follows a Welsh coal mining family over several years, beaten down by small town social mores, unsafe mining conditions, and the economic collapse of their town. And yet their valley was so green, you could even see it in black and white; the love and spirit endured. Continue Reading →

Eye on Mining: Exclusive interview with PolyMet CEO and President – by Staff (CBS 3 Duluth – January 29, 2019)

CBS 3 Duluth.com

HOYT LAKES, MN — After nearly 15 years and thousands of public comments PolyMet is making preparations to start construction on Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine.

“During this upcoming construction season we’ll be in a position to be ready to begin the project,” said Jon Cherry, President and CEO of PolyMet. “2019 should be when we break ground and get going.”

Cherry has been at the forefront of this project for the last six and a half years and he said it hasn’t been without obstacles. “The challenge has been the length of time that it’s taken to get to this point.” PolyMet began the initial environmental review back in 2004. Continue Reading →

Iron Range cities ready to welcome mining revival Matt McKinney (Minneapolis Star Tribune – December 30, 2018)

http://www.startribune.com/

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.” Continue Reading →

On the Iron Range, new hopes and new anxieties – by Matt McKinney and Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – November 11, 2018)

http://www.startribune.com/

Permit approvals for PolyMet open a new chapter in an old struggle.

HOYT LAKES, Minn. – For years, residents of this struggling mining town have clung to the hope that their old way of life would return. But even so, when state regulators finally approved permits late last month for Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine, the news hit like a thunderbolt.

“You could feel it,” said Toni Thuringer, co-owner of the Haven Bar and Grill, who described a buzz that ran through patrons dining in the restaurant and elbowing up to the bar. “It’s just so cool because it’s been so long since we’ve had that feeling around here.”

In Iron Range towns left for dead by the mining industry’s last bust in the 1980s, the sudden realization that, after years of contentious debate, PolyMet Mining Corp. might actually open its $1 billion mine has fueled rousing talk. Continue Reading →

Environmental groups ask for suspension of PolyMet permits – by Jimmy Lovrien (Duluth News Tribune – November 8, 2018)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Several Minnesota environmental groups asked state agencies to suspend permits for the contentious PolyMet copper-nickel mine in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, WaterLegacy and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness submitted a request for stay, or suspension, of permits issued by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last week and pending permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency until the Minnesota Court of Appeals rules on whether an additional environment review of the project is needed.

Before the groups can ask the Court of Appeals for a stay on the permits, they’re required to first request a stay of permits from the agencies themselves, WaterLegacy counsel and advocacy director Paula Maccabee told the News Tribune on Thursday. “It’s not like this is the endgame, but it is a preliminary step,” Maccabee said. Continue Reading →

Mining is a small part of Minnesota’s economy. So why is it such a big political issue? – by Greta Kaul (Minn Post.com – October 17, 2018)

https://www.minnpost.com/

Visit Iron Range towns like Babbitt, Hibbing, Virginia and Eveleth, Minnesota this election season and it’s not just signs supporting candidates that decorate lawns and businesses.

Signs with slogans like “We Support Mining” are pretty much permanent fixtures in this part of the state, where mining has been an important pillar of the economy for well over a century.

The signs may be numerous, but the number of people actually employed in mining in Minnesota isn’t: Mining is directly responsible for about 0.2 percent of Minnesota’s jobs and less than 3 percent of its economic output, according to state data. Continue Reading →

MINING IS — AGAIN — AT CENTER OF 8TH DISTRICT RACE – by Jerry Burnes (Mesabi Daily News – October 5, 2018)

https://www.virginiamn.com/

Two years ago in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District race, mining and the economy — and who was better for both — played a central role in the Rick Nolan-Stewart Mills rematch. Fast-forward to today and the changed political climate, the Joe Radinovich-Pete Stauber race is drawing from the same well.

In their first debate last week and afterward, the Republican Stauber and Democrat Radinovich sparred over their stances on future copper-nickel developments. At one point, Stauber accused his opponent of doing a “Texas two-step” on the subject and that he was more concerned about politics.

Their differences aren’t dissimilar to 2016 when opponents launched ads saying Nolan, the incumbent Democrat, was using mining support as a political tool, and that Republicans were the party that would ultimately support the industry. Continue Reading →

New Soudan mine tours go deep – into geology, that is – by Pam Louwagie (Minneapolis Star Tribune – September 15, 2018)

http://www.startribune.com/

Geology groupies: Take note. For a limited time, the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is offering a new, more scientific walking tour geared toward explaining details about how geologists figured out where and how to extract iron ore from the area.

Guides at the park in northeastern Minnesota bring visitors a half-mile underground in an elevator-like cage. While typical tours then transfer visitors to a train for a ¾-mile ride to a large underground “room” where ore has been extracted, the new tours involve walking there.

“It gives us an opportunity to stop at locations that people on the train are never going to see,” said Park Manager Jim Essig. The new tours emphasize how mines were mapped, he said. Continue Reading →

Defeat for Minnesota wilderness protection means back to business for mining – by Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – September 10, 2018)

http://www.startribune.com/

The federal government’s sudden decision to reopen mineral exploration just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was a resounding defeat for wilderness advocates. But for the mining industry, it means back to business as usual.

By 2016, when the U.S. Forest Service adopted the temporary ban on exploratory drilling, mining companies had already poked thousands of holes in the ground in northern Minnesota in a decadeslong hunt for copper, nickel, platinum and other precious metals.

Now, the grinding sound of the drill rigs in 234,000 acres of the Superior National Forest around Ely will resume and, over the next few years, probably increase, say those in the industry. More importantly, the decision to lift the ban makes it more likely that at some point all that exploration will result in a mine. Continue Reading →