Copper-nickel mining in Minnesota is an issue often met with intense debate. Is copper-nickel mining right for Minnesota? Can it be done safely? Will our watersheds be safe? Will the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness be impacted?
These are valid questions, and it is important that they are asked (and answered) publicly. The copper-nickel mining industry doesn’t seek to hide in the shadows but rather to provide the public with answers to all these questions and concerns and more within the process of opening a mine.
There are five important reasons that the current copper-nickel mining project proposed by PolyMet is a smart choice for Minnesota.
1. Human Safety
There is no safer place to operate a copper-nickel mine than right here in the United States of America, where protecting human health is a top priority. Before a mine can open, mining operations in the U.S. undergo very rigorous human health risk assessments to be sure any potential risks are mitigated. This protects workers and citizens alike and pays close attention to high-risk groups, like kids or the elderly.
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) sets health and safety standards to protect workers with exposure limits to air pollutants and water quality issues – and mining operations are required to maintain ongoing compliance for the duration of operations. Regulators aren’t going to simply hand over the keys and say “See you when you’re done!” after permits are issued.
2. Environmental Safety
The U.S. mining industry is highly regulated – and for good reason. Exhaustive environmental review processes ensure that a mine can operate within all federal, state, and local regulations before any mining activity commences. That means tailings basins will be stable. Water quality will meet or exceed federal standards. Effective long-term water treatment plans are in place. Culturally significant lands and wetlands will always be protected. Recreational opportunities won’t be impeded by a mine.
We understand that the American people are very protective of their land. The people who will operate copper-nickel mining facilities are Americans too. They also care that northern Minnesota stays the incredible, beautiful place it is today.
3. Local Jobs
The Iron Range was founded on mining. Iron ore built the region, state, and nation. Without the mining industry, cities like Ely, Virginia, Hibbing, Biwabik, and more wouldn’t exist as we know them today. The landscape of the Twin Ports would be vastly different. We’re proud of our history in mining and the jobs it created.
Today, we believe we are ready for the next generation of mining. Copper-nickel mining at PolyMet’s NorthMet project site is the smart next step for Minnesota. This project will provide more than 5,100 people with good-paying jobs and contribute over $419 million in annual earning in our state. That’s not money we can shy away from. Our friends and neighbors are counting on the jobs this mine will create. Jobs at the NorthMet mine will make it possible for many Minnesotans to support their families. We need mining jobs in order for the Iron Range to survive.
4. Economic Stability
This is a “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” type of thing. A diverse economy is a strong economy. A complex mix of thriving industries like manufacturing, shipping, finance, legal, healthcare, real estate, retail, tourism, and more all contribute to a stable economy. That means more job opportunities, more income, and more stability for everyday citizens.
The mining industry has long been a contributor to northern Minnesota’s economy. Studies have shown that while the tourism industry helps make an area an attractive place to build a home, the mining industry makes it possible for workers to afford a comfortable lifestyle. It all plays together.
5. Global Demand
We know the current state of renewable energy infrastructure is not strong enough to support increased demand. As we move toward a more sustainable future, we must invest in infrastructure. We can’t have wind energy without both on and offshore wind turbine infrastructure. We can’t harness energy from the sun without adequate solar panel technology. And when we need to store the green energy we create, we’re going to need more batteries. Infrastructure for these renewable energy resources requires large amounts of copper and other metals found on the Iron Range.
To achieve a more sustainable future through the smart use of our natural resources, we cannot afford to ignore the very metals we need to build the appropriate infrastructure. That means we must open PolyMet’s copper-nickel mine, and where better than right here? We have the metals. We have the workforce. We have the infrastructure. We have the care and respect for our environment and workforce. Let’s put it to work for all of us.