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80,000-ton-a-day copper mine could bring 1,000 jobs to Ely

Twin Metals announced plans last week to develop the 80,000-ton-a-day Nokomis mine and processing plant southeast of Ely. This would be one of the largest private enterprises in state history, writes John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune. It is the largest untapped copper deposit in the world. The company is collecting environmental data on water quality, plants, animals and more to determine how the project will be regulated. The company’s engineering contractor, global giant Bechtel, will draw up plans for the mine and processing plant, putting Twin Metals on par with the largest mines in the world.

Myers writes: “The Nokomis project along Minnesota Highway 1 near the Kawishiwi River is now expected to cost between $2 billion and $3 billion, one of the state’s largest private enterprises ever, and could employ more than 1,000 people to mine some 400 million tons of ore-bearing rock. By comparison, PolyMet is proposing a $600 million open-pit mine and concentrating center, employing about 350 people that would process about 32,000 tons of copper and other metals a day for about 20 years or more. In addition to copper, the Nokomis deposit — and adjacent Maturi, Spruce Road and Birch Lake deposits — also hold vast amounts of palladium, nickel, silver, gold and platinum. Company officials say that, depending how fast the company decides to mine, there’s enough ore to last a half-century or more.” Canada-based Duluth Metals purchased Canada-based Franconia Metals in 2010, consolidating the four copper deposits in the Birch Lake area southeast of Ely. Duluth Metals then formed a 60/40 partnership with Chilean-based Antofagasta to form Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, thanks to a $130 million investment.

Voter ID would likely have an adverse effect on your pocketbook, says Fergus Falls Election Administrator Lynne Olson. In a Fergus Falls Journal story by Ryan Howard, the proposed Voter ID constitutional amendment amounts to an unfunded mandate, Olson says. “We would probably have to hire an additional two election judges (per ward) and have a separate ballot box. Who’s going to pick up the cost? It’s going to be back on the taxpayers.” While most of the extra costs would be borne by municipalities or voting precincts, Otter Tail County Auditor Wayne Stein said the county could also face additional cost burdens.

Voter ID would also likely “affect how long it takes before an election outcome is announced,” Howard writes. “If the amendment makes it to the state constitution, those who voted with provisional ballots would be allowed to present their IDs and allow their votes to be counted for several days after Election Day. If there are a lot of provisional ballots and not very many votes between two candidates (like in 2010, when Jay Cichosz beat Tim Rundquist by one vote in a Fergus Falls City Council election), the outcome likely wouldn’t be known until the provisional ballot period expires, possibly followed by a recount. ‘It might be a month and a half before someone can be declared a winner in some cases,’ Olson said.”

The state Department of Public Safety reports that high speeds and failure to wear seatbelts have killed more people on Minnesota roads in the first 11 weeks of the year, compared with the same period last year. As of Thursday, there were 66 traffic deaths, up 47 percent from the same period last year when there were 45. Chris Bieri of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that in the three-year period between 2008 to 2010, unsafe speeds contributed to 266 fatal crashes in which 296 people died. Of those fatalities, 65 percent occurred in rural areas with populations of fewer than 5,000.

In northwest Minnesota, speed-related crashes killed nine in the three-year period, including five in Polk County, two in Mahnomen County and 12 in Beltrami County. Cass County reported 19 total traffic deaths, including three due to speed, and seven speed-related severe injuries from 2008-2010. In the same span, Hubbard County had 12 traffic deaths, three which were speed-related, and two severe injuries because of speed. In Clearwater County, there were two traffic deaths in the three-year span. Neither death was speed-related.

A recent column by Trish Grimsley, a Beltrami County bailiff and Safe Neighborhood Coalition coordinator, advocated a culture in which traffic fatalities and serious injuries are no longer acceptable. The mission includes education, enforcement of laws, engineering improvements and emergency medical and trauma services. “Alone, one of the four Es cannot effect a significant change in traffic safety,” Grimsley wrote. “It takes the combined effort of all four disciplines to really make the difference on our roads.”

A proposed high-speed Zip Rail line between Rochester and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport would bring nearly $1 billion per year in increased economic activity, an analysis produced for Rochester Area Economic Development concluded. RAEDI Executive Director Gary Smith told Jeffrey Pieters of the Rochester Post-Bulletin that the report simply asked the question: “What would happen if we shrunk the time and distance between the Rochester-area economy and the Twin Cities economy,” not to establish the feasibility of the route and its estimated $1 billion construction cost.

The study was a statistical analysis of the likely economic benefits using established formulas and assumptions. The study assumed a nonstop route between downtown Rochester and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that would attract an estimated 1 million riders per year. Trains traveling at speeds between 150 and 220 mph would shave 30 minutes off the travel time by car and make the travel time itself potentially productive for the traveler freed from the task of driving. The value of time-savings would approach $30 million in the first year, and vehicle gas consumption would be reduced by 2.5 million gallons. An estimated 40 road crashes would be prevented.

Benefits accrue from that increased productivity, as well as from tying together the unique biomedical and research economies of the two metro areas, said Frank Loetterle, transportation planner with R.L. Banks. "There's a synergy that occurs here ... that doesn't occur other places," he said.  Statewide, economic activity would increase by $987 million per year, and by $84 million in Olmsted County alone. Increased employment, over 25 years, would total nearly 7,900 jobs, including 3,250 involved in the planning, design and construction.

More than 300 concerned parents attended an Owatonna School Board meeting when board members were to discuss eliminating the district’s gifted and talented education program to save money. The district’s superintendent rescheduled the vote until after another study session, writes Derek Sullivan of the Owatonna People’s Press.

It’s unknown how many teachers may be laid off, but the number could reach double digits. If the board decides to eliminate the gifted and talented program, as recommended by the administration, the district will save more than $150,000 in salaries as well as lose roughly $66,000 ($12 per pupil) the district receives for gifted and talented delivery. Superintendent Tom Tapper said gifted and talented education could be replaced by inquiry, a thought not supported by gifted and talented program coordinator Julie Maghan. “Inquiry, in of itself, is not gifted education,” she said. “If you don’t have someone to push them, to lead them to those avenues, a lot of kids are comfortable just sliding by. It’s going to be very difficult for teachers to make sure every kid reaches their potential without support.”

The Willmar Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday to consider a conditional use permit to allow for a mosque at the site of the former Lafayette Elementary School, reports the West Central Tribune. The Islamic Society of Willmar wants to use the building for a mosque, religious education, adult education and limited child care. The society currently has a mosque and education center in downtown Willmar, but the local Muslim community has outgrown it. At a community meeting earlier this year, City Administrator Charlene Stevens said zoning issues for a mosque would be handled the same way as for any church. Houses of worship are allowed in most zoning classifications in the city. The city would look at issues like traffic flow, parking and noise issues, she said. Lafayette Elementary School was sold by the school district in 2007 to First Step Inc. day care. The owners closed the day care in November.

The seventh-grade girls basketball coach at Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau School District has been placed on paid administrative leave after he was charged with a felony for allegedly burning players with dry ice, reports Patrick B. Anderson of the Winona Daily News. Brady Olson, 42, of Ettrick, who is also a high school chemistry teacher, was charged with child abuse and disorderly conduct. On Jan. 20, Olson touched dry ice to the knees and inner thighs of players, leaving visible burn marks, according to a criminal complaint filed in Trempealeau County Circuit Court. The complaint says a 13-year-old girl had a dime-size burn mark on her inner thigh when she returned home from practice. Olson, who has taught at G-E-T for 16 years, received a verbal warning from school officials for the act, which he told investigators was part of a demonstration to “make things fun for the girls” during practice, according to the complaint. Olson won’t return until a resolution is reached in court or until school officials learn more about the charges, G-E-T Superintendent David Grace said. “We’re trying to understand why this went the route it did,” he said.

A Fergus Falls couple now knows what they have suspected for a long time: Their kitchen is really, really ugly. Keith and Mickie Rogal recently won the Ugly Kitchen Contest put on by five Fergus Falls-area businesses. The couple has already started preparing the room for their prize: a remodel worth up to $12,500, reports Ryan Howard of the Fergus Falls Journal.  The couple beat out about 70 other entrants in their quest to be the ugliest. The Rogals, who live south of Fergus Falls toward Wendell, thought they had a good chance to win the prize going into the contest. “I had more than one person tell me that I should enter it,” Mickie said. As Howard wrote: “The Rogals’ kitchen is ugly is because it’s essentially a relic of the days when disco was king and Gerald Ford was in the White House. ‘It was built in 1974 by my grandparents and it was decorated in 1974, and it hasn’t been changed since,’ Mickie said. Cornerstone owner Mike Thorson was more specific as to why the Rogal kitchen was picked. ‘It was like a time capsule of early ‘70s hip decorations,’ said Thorson, noting that kitchen carpeting, outdated wallpaper and an unfashionable yellow aesthetic all contributed to the Rogals’ victory. ‘It was bold, let me tell you that. … Think Austin Powers, except not as cool.’ ”

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Comments (5)

It's time

Time for the dirt to fly.

Greater Minnesota

I used to live in Lesser Minnesota, so have found the Metro oriented reporting of interest. Now I am glad to see reporting expanded beyond.

One quibble: Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School ( known locally as GET High) is in Wisconsin.

More Fergus Falls news!!

As a proud graduate of Fergus Falls High School, I am delighted to see our encroachment on this news report. We move slowly but steadily.

Greater Minnesota

Fitzgerald is doing a great job summarizing these news items. His writing draws me into topics I might not normally read about. This post even summarized for me a story I read locally.

But if Bechtel or Polymet pollutes the water table

the entire tourism industry in northern Minnesota might die. Residents of its small towns might have to import drinking water to avoid getting sick. Farmers would be using water from which poisonous materials would contaminate their crops.

Are one thousand jobs worth potentially (likely??) ruining a third or more of our state?