Last week the Ely Echo took up the issue of mining leases on privately owned land in the state of Minnesota. It would appear that the Echo took up the cause of the pro-mining people who were upset because Governor Mark Dayton and the State Executive Council declared a six month moratorium on granting mining leases on privately owned land in Northeastern Minnesota. It would appear that many property owners don’t want to have mining companies prospecting on their land.
The Echo took a small quote from an editorial in the Star Tribune that said the delay was caused by the largely unfounded fears of property owners about mineral exploration on their land. Considering that there has never been a sulfide mine in the state; that has ever reached a production level, we have nothing to go on other than the track record sulfide mines have left in other places. Based on their poor historical record, to say that property owner’s fears of sulfide mining on or near their land are largely unfounded is a real stretch even for the Ely Echo. The Echo plays down the genuine concerns of landowners as making a mountain out of a mole hill, or the anti-mining crowd using people as they crusade against sulfide mining. It would seem that these poor multi national mining companies are being unfairly picked on by places like Stony River Township who unanimously voted against any sulfide mining in their township. It would appear that the Stony River people seem to think that sulfide mining is a bad deal.
Towards the end of the editorial the Echo uses a quote from Ely Mayor Roger Skraba who is very much in favor of sulfide mining in Northeastern Minnesota. His reasoning is that in his opinion Ely is dying, and the mining companies will bring a resurrection to his dying town. While there is no doubt that Ely has lost population since the last iron mine closed in 1967, to say the town is dying is a bit of an overstatement. You don’t award the coolest small town in America to a dying town. In ten years Ely’s population has dropped by several hundred people, but the populations of the townships surrounding Ely have seen a large increase in population. It is these people who are speaking up against the exploitation that sulfide mining has always brought to any place where they have done business.
Mayor Skraba states that it is all a matter of time before the mining companies have their way; if it isn’t in this generation, then it will be the next. There may be a lot of truth to what the mayor says. The minerals have been here for two thousand three hundred million years, and they certainly aren’t going anywhere. The editorial touts that new technology will allow sulfide mining to be done in harmony with tourism and clean water. Well, there is a first time for everything, but to date all this talk of new technology is nothing but an empty promise with nothing to back it up. By, Iron Mike Hillman
Northeastern Minnesota is home to the second largest deposit of copper and nickel in the world that has yet to be exploited by multi-national mining conglomerates. To date the mining companies haven’t come close to meeting any environmental standard. When they are done with business, the companies move on and take the profits with them, and leave rivers of sulfuric acid in their wake. Let these companies go to Africa and practice their new and improved mining techniques. When they can show all of us Nimbys that they really are able to do their work without destroying one of the world’s most valuable fresh water places this blogger, “Originally from Ely”, will welcome them with open arms.