Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

COLUMNS: An Economist’s Column: Mining or the environment is a false choice; we can have both – by John Phelan (Duluth News Tribune – November 1, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

In a column on Twin Metals’ planned sulfide ore copper mine (Local View: “Arrowhead better served without mineral leases,” Oct. 20), local economist Kris Hallberg wrote, “On the surface, the controversy appears to be a fight between two competing priorities: jobs versus environmental protection. But a closer look at the current economy of the region and the changing nature of rural economic development tells a different story.”

Hallberg was right that the debate is usually presented as this choice. However, as we at the Center of the American Experiment showed in our 2018 report, “Unearthing Prosperity: How Environmentally Responsible Mining Will Boost Minnesota’s Economy,” it is a false choice.

Sulfide ore copper mining can be done in an environmentally sustainable way. Sadly, despite her awareness of this trap, Hallberg fell into it herself. Continue Reading →

IRON RANGE ENDOWED WITH MORE THAN ENOUGH ORE – by Lee Bloomquist (Mesabi Daily News – October 30, 2019)

https://www.virginiamn.com/

HIBBING — When Andrew Reed in 2007 was graduating from high school in Orr, students were under the impression that northeastern Minnesota’s taconite industry was on its last legs.

Within two years – hammered by a national and global economic downturn – total iron ore pellet production plummeted to barely more than 18 million tons. With taconite plants idled, production was far below the industry’s annual capacity of about 40 million tons.

“When I went to school, people thought it was dying,” said Reed. “But no, it’s just getting started.” Reed, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Lands and Minerals mineland reclamation specialist in Hibbing, today earns a living because of iron ore. Continue Reading →

Minnesota Supreme Court won’t take up copper-nickel mining rules – by Jimmy Lovrien (Duluth News Tribune – October 29, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a challenge by environmental groups over the state’s copper-nickel mining rules.

Environmental groups argue the Department of Natural Resources’ rules regulating the mining of metals that do not contain iron — such as copper, nickel and other precious metals — were too vague and, therefore, unenforceable. The DNR maintains the rules were strong yet flexible.

But in August, Minnesota Court of Appeals unanimously upheld those rules, and called the DNR’s non-ferrous rules “valid.” Six environment groups had filed the original appeal, but only two groups, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case after the Court of Appeals upheld the rules. Continue Reading →

‘Sense of Dread’: How a Mining Disaster in Brazil Raised Alarms in Minnesota – by Alistair MacDonald, Kris Maher and Kim Mackrael (Wall Street Journal – October 14, 2019)

https://www.wsj.com/

Mine-waste dams around the world have drawn new scrutiny after a collapse in Brazil this year killed hundreds

EMBARRASS, Minn.—An earthen dam is set to rise behind the trees of Dan Ehman’s 120 woodland acres in northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range, a region with close ties to mining for more than a century.

The planned dam, designed to hold back hundreds of millions of tons of mining waste, will be similar in structure and height—soaring 250 feet above Mr. Ehman’s century-old log cabin—to one in Brazil that burst in January, killing 270 in a tsunami of sludge.

That disaster, the deadliest of its type in half a century, has upended the global mining industry. The world’s biggest mining giants have spent months and millions of dollars re-evaluating their dams. Institutional investors are scrubbing their portfolios, looking for companies with risky structures—and helping to publicize potential stability issues. And environmentalists are getting new support from residents, some of whom are learning for the first time about the potential dangers of the dams in their communities. Continue Reading →

COLUMNS: We users of mineral resources should also be responsible enough to develop them – by Karl Everett (Duluth News Tribune – September 24, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Karl Everett of Duluth is a professional engineer, geologist, environmental health and safety consultant, and vice president of the Mesabi Range Geological Society.

We don’t need to buy Greenland for mineral resources; we have plenty of mineral resources to develop right here in northern Minnesota. Minnesota is the largest producer in the United States of the ferrous minerals in iron ore and taconite, which provides jobs and revenue in northern Minnesota and accounts for almost a third of the Gross Regional Product.

In addition to iron ore, northern Minnesota has one of the world’s largest copper deposits and the world’s third-largest nickel deposit. These deposits include platinum, palladium, gold, and cobalt. There are also manganese and titanium deposits located in northern Minnesota.

All these mineral resources are adjacent to existing Iron Range mines that have the existing transportation and infrastructure for the development of these sources, including power, rail systems, and port facilities for shipping. The region also has the workforce for mining. Continue Reading →

Statewide View Column: Closing down coal gives China’s, India’s iron industries an edge – by Isaac Orr (Duluth News Tribune – September 16, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Xcel Energy recently made headlines by announcing it wished to close down its coal-fired power plants 10 years before they were previously scheduled to retire.

However, it would be nothing short of a disaster for Minnesota’s mining industry, both present and future, if Minnesota Power pursued a similar path by closing the coal-fired Boswell Energy Center at a time when China and India are greatly expanding their use of coal.

Mining requires an enormous amount of energy. In fact, the MinnTac mine in Mountain Iron reportedly uses more electricity and natural gas than the entire city of Minneapolis, and only the coal-fired Boswell Energy Center can provide the affordable, reliable, around-the-clock electricity needed to keep Minnesota mines competitive in a global marketplace. Continue Reading →

Should we mine copper and nickel in Minnesota … to help defeat climate change? – by Walker Orenstein (Minn Post – September 11, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

Just as steel made from Minnesota’s iron ore powered the U.S. military to victory during World War II, supporters of copper-nickel mining in the state say the industry could help defeat another global challenge: the climate crisis.

Demand is on the rise for renewable energy and electric cars that rely on copper, nickel, cobalt and other metals. And as the world continues to transition away from fossil fuels, the need for those minerals will only continue to grow.

In August, Gov. Tim Walz told MinnPost the state should allow mining if it expects to reach a carbon-free future. “There’s 5.5 tons of copper in every megawatt of solar, and it comes from somewhere,” he said. Continue Reading →

Local View Column: Let’s have honest conversations about copper-nickel mining – by Dean DeBeltz (Duluth News Tribune – August 16, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Dean DeBeltz is director of operations and safety for Twin Metals Minnesota. He is based in Ely.

As people gather for the Wild Waters Music Fest in Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park today, there will be much conversation about what needs to be done to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

As Twin Metals Minnesota’s proposed mine plan moves through the regulatory process, those of us who work in mining will be an important part of those conversations — not only because we, too, care deeply about the Boundary Waters but because we are committed to the health of the communities of Northeastern Minnesota, where our common future lives.

The Iron Range we know today was built on both mining and the wilderness. The forests of northern Minnesota have been home to mines and logging operations, outfitters and outdoor adventurers continuously for more than 130 years. Continue Reading →

A dam collapse in Brazil has some worried about PolyMet’s plans. Why the DNR says it won’t happen here – by Walker Orenstein (MinnPost.com – August 13, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

In January, the tailings dam at a Brazilian iron ore mine collapsed, killing nearly 250 people. The wave of toxic waste and mud also wrecked two dozen buildings and polluted water for five miles.

In Minnesota, the disaster raised eyebrows among opponents of a copper-nickel mine planned near Hoyt Lakes. That’s because the design of the dam in Brumadinho was similar to one PolyMet Mining hopes to build. In fact, the Vale mining company had used a method to judge dam safety created by a PolyMet adviser.

And the tragedy in Brazil embodied the worst fears of some Minnesota environmental activists and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who warn PolyMet could pollute the St. Louis River. Continue Reading →

Thunder Bay: Opponents to copper mine in Northern Minnesota hope to rally support in Fort Frances, Ont. – by Jeff Walters (CBC News Thunder Bay – August 14, 2019)

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/

A proposed copper mine in Northern Minnesota will get some attention Wednesday evening at a public meeting in Fort Frances, Ont. The Coalition to Save the Boundary Waters hopes to get some support from Canadians, and wants people in Fort Frances to speak with government to try and have Canadian politicians oppose the mine south of the border.

“This type of mining in sulfide bearing ore inevitably leads to the degredation of water quality,” said Becky Rom, the Chair of the coalition. “And yet, what we have here are interconnected waters, and our water quality is extremely good.”

Rom said water discharged from the mine would lead to the Boundary Waters, and through Quetico Provincial Park before reaching Rainy Lake and Rainy River, which include Canadian and U.S. waters. Continue Reading →

Court upholds MN rules in copper-nickel mining challenge – by Dan Kraker (Minnesota Public Radio – August 5, 2019)

https://www.mprnews.org/

The Minnesota Court of Appeals Monday dealt a setback to several environmental groups challenging the state’s rules governing copper-nickel mining.

The groups argued in a lawsuit that the state’s rules over mine waste disposal, mining areas and permits to mine for “nonferrous metallic mineral mining” are too vague for courts and regulatory agencies to enforce, and don’t adequately protect the environment.

It was among several suits filed by conservation and environmental groups after the state approved PolyMet Mining’s controversial proposal to build Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine late last year. Continue Reading →

ENVIRONMENT: From ‘they need it’ to ‘it’s going to destroy the land,’ people in Ely have a lot of thoughts about Twin Metals – by Walker Orenstein (MinnPost.com – July 29, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

At Ely’s annual Blueberry/Art Festival this weekend, the debate over copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) was nearly as visible as the food, music and crafts for sale.

Dueling booths run by supporters and opponents of Twin Metals Minnesota and the controversial underground mine it hopes to build dotted Whiteside Park on Friday as thousands of people streamed through the small town in northern Minnesota for the first day of the festival.

One of those tents was run by Up North Jobs, a pro-mining nonprofit that declared the weekend “Twin Metals Appreciation Days” in honor of the company’s continued investment in Ely. Just across the park was Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, which warned fairgoers of the risk that copper-nickel mining could be to the BWCA. Continue Reading →

Twin Metals changes its plan to deal with mine waste — to a strategy lauded by some environmentalists – by Walker Orenstein (Minn Post – July 18, 2019)

https://www.minnpost.com/

The safety of storing mining waste in a tailings basin has been a critical part of the debate over copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota, with some environmental advocates warning that failures and spills could unleash toxic slurry into nearby waters.

Now, in a major shift, one of two companies hoping to build a copper-nickel mine says it plans to store much of its waste using a “dry stack” method, an emerging technology that many of the same environmental nonprofits — and some mining experts — argue will better prevent water pollution.

Twin Metals Minnesota, which plans to mine just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, said Thursday it would abandon its plan to use a tailings basin, which entails waste rock being covered in a pond held back by a dam. Continue Reading →

Clean water or mining pollution for the nation’s favorite wilderness? – by Mike Dombeck (The Hill – July 8, 2019)

https://thehill.com/

When you picture wilderness, the first thing that comes to mind may be the shoreline of a clean, unpolluted lake. Which is reasonable given the protections we provide to national wilderness areas.

But that is likely to change if the Trump administration and Twin Metals Minnesota have their way. Twin Metals is a mining firm owned by Chilean conglomerate Antofagasta.

The aggressive push by the Trump administration to force approval of a sulfide-ore copper and nickel mine in northern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest will almost certainly pollute the waters of the nation’s third largest National Forest and vast Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The administration recently announced renewal of two mining leases for Twin Metals. Continue Reading →

OUR VIEWS: GLENCORE TRAGEDY SHOWS WHY MINING SHOULD BE DONE HERE (Mesabi Daily News – June 29, 2019)

https://www.virginiamn.com/

As news filtered out Thursday that Glencore had established itself as the majority shareholder of PolyMet, which is looking to build Minnesota’s first-ever copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, devastating headlines about the Swiss-based company were also breaking.

At least 43 “illegal miners” died at a Kamoto Copper Company mine, operated by Glencore’s subsidiary Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Glencore later said the incidents were not linked to the official “operations and activities” of the mine.

While clandestine miners, who access sites without approval or permits, are a common occurrence in Congo and across Africa according to Reuters, the incident raises several questions in light of Glencore’s new role on the Iron Range. Continue Reading →