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Pro-Mining meeting in Ely, MN featuring James Skurla and Tommy Rukavina

Approximately 35 pro-mining advocates met Wed. March 5, 2014 at Amici’s in Ely, MN to promote and discuss the benefits of mining in Minnesota. The main speaker was James Skurla from the University of Minnesota Duluth who presented his report on The Economic Impact of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Mining.  Unfortunately, the title of his talk is a misnomer.  Mr. Skurla quickly points out that his study was not a cost benefits analysis, but that this type of economic study is useful none the less.  And, he is correct a benefits analysis is useful when comparing multiple projects.  This however is a Benefits analysis only with no other competing projects or alternative options for comparison.  A true Cost/Benefits analysis of hard  rock mining can be seen here: Dr. Power’s Cost/Benefits analysis of hard rock mining.

There were four speakers at this event, sponsored by Up North Jobs, Ely Echo, & Mining Minnesota.  James Skurla, Tommy Rukavina, Jay Maki, and Bill Erzar.  Due to the length of the overall program each speaker will be presented here in order of appearance at the meeting.

James Skurla, U of M Duluth

Representative Tommy Rukavian

Ely Resident Jay Maki

Ely Resident Bill Erzar

The facts presented by these individuals is definately not in question.  The declining population, declining school enrollment, and non optimal economic conditions in Ely is well understood by all.  The fact that the Taconite industry has contributed GREATLY to the state and local communities specifically is WITHOUT doubt.

The solution to Ely’s problems is or should be up for debate and we would agree with Bill Erzar that it would be best if we all worked together to do so.  The belief that Non-Ferrous mining in this region could be the panacea for all ills and will be done in an environmentally safe manner is an unproven  unscientific belief and should be open for discussion.  We all should demand  the mining companies PR and promises be proven scientifically beyond all reasonable doubt.  Designing and building a project based on belief, hoping to patch any errors as we go, is a certain recipe for disaster especially in Non-Ferrous mining.

1 comment to Pro-Mining meeting in Ely, MN featuring James Skurla and Tommy Rukavina

  • admin

    The mining promotion presented by James Skurla in Ely on March 5 was based on the November 2012 Economic Impact report from UMD. Anyone who has actually read the document has reason to be skeptical about mining as economic development.

    My favorite example is the declaration on page 4 that “…mining GRP totals approximately 5.3% for 2010.” GRP refers to Minnesota’s Gross Regional Product, roughly comparable to Gross National Product at the national level.

    On the same page, we are informed that total Minnesota GRP was $281.1 billion and mining was $4.5 billion for that year. A little honest arithmetic tells us that mining was less than 2% of Minnesota’s economy for 2010. It was 1.6% to be precise.

    I don’t know what brand of pixie dust UMD sprinkled on the numbers to come up with 5.3% but anything is possible when mining is involved.

    We were also informed that mining contributes mineral lease revenue to scholarships for university students. The public was not informed that for every dollar that goes to scholarships, a matching dollar goes to mineral research, plainly a mining industry subsidy. This information is available on page A-ll of Skurla’s UMD report.

    Neither did Skurla disclose that the IRRRB has rebated $220 million of tax dollars to the mining industry over the last 20 years. (From p. 28 of November 2013 Mining Tax Guide.)

    It wouldn’t have been a completely fulfilling evening without a condescending lecture from Tom Rukavina about all the money he gives us. A tempting response would be to offer to refund the money as soon as he gets his mining company sulfates out of lake Vermilion. We should expect some benefit for serving as a mineralized cess pool for the taconite industry. Tom could’ve put the sulfates in the empty bags he drug down to the Polymet SDEIS hearing in St. Paul.

    To put a little frosting on the cake of economic illiteracy in Ely, it appears that the Ely city council is going to bless us with another vote in favor of Polymet.

    Now we’ve been told that the Duluth Complex is a world class ore body. I googled “world class ore body” and got over two million hits. There’s a lot of info about world class ore bodies. What seems to be lacking is any evidence of healthy communities in proximity to those ore bodies. If the City of Ely really believes that mining produces healthy communities, they should be able to give us a few dozen examples of towns the size of Ely that are thriving because they used mining for economic development. If they can’t, maybe they should quit wasting their time flogging a dead horse.

    Bob Tammen, Soundan, MN

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