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Mining opponents tread on the property rights of all Minnesota citizens

The tax and royalty revenues produced by mining in Minnesota are enjoyed by citizens statewide.

Minnesota DNR

The plan for the NorthMet mine site at year 20, when extraction operations are projected to end. Click for larger version.

Sustainable Ely, an Ely-based project of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, (NMW) is having problems convincing Minnesotans that the proposed PolyMet mine will pollute our waterways and devastate our northeastern Minnesota economy. With a tiny base of supporters in Ely opposed to mining, Sustainable Ely has begun to shift its effort to the Twin Cities, where it finds friendly supporters and wealthy friends. 

At a forum held in a Minnetonka public library, Sustainable Ely founder Becky Rom tried to convince the audience that nonferrous mining operations will reduce the value of their homes on the White Iron Chain of Lakes near Ely. And most recently Rom appeared before a legislative hearing in St. Paul and said that mining is bad for her area’s economy — “Mining displaces sustainable jobs.”    

In N. Minnesota, 69% approve of PolyMet proposal

There must be much chagrin on the part of NMW with the poll results that were published on Feb. 21 by the Star Tribune. It found that “46 percent of Minnesotans who were polled want PolyMet Mining Corp’s proposal to be approved, 21 percent say it should be rejected.”  It also found that “In northern Minnesota, 69 percent said they thought the state should approve PolyMet’s application.”

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“NMW’s new efforts differ from previous Minnesota opposition to mining projects, it seems to me, in four significant ways,” writes Ron Meador Feb. 13 in MinnPost:       

  • “Although it opposes PolyMet, too, the watershed campaign is focused on blocking mines on the BWCA side of the Laurentian Divide.
  • “It is building alliances not only in Minnesota but with national conservation groups such as the National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society and the Center for Biological Diversity, and will seek to mobilize the BWCA’s national constituency.
  • “Where other groups sometimes acknowledge a possibility that PolyMet may prove itself capable of environmentally safe mining and come up with adequate financial guarantees (a position this writer, too, is striving earnestly to maintain) the Boundary Waters campaign just says, NO. No mining in the Boundary Waters watershed. None. Period.
  • “Where other organizations have focused on challenging PolyMet’s plans step by step through the regulatory process, and mounting public-information campaigns along the way, the new campaign seeks to halt mining development at the earliest possible stage, and certainly before a mining plan has reached review stage.”

Right on MinnPost.

When appearing in Ely in support of Sustainable Ely last summer, Don Shelby, who at the time was a board member of Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), confirmed that NMW’s mission is similar to their own. “You might have to fight your friends and neighbors,” said Shelby, a former WCCO Twin Cities TV reporter/personality urging Sustainable Ely to prepare for a major battle, and said MCEA is solidly behind opponents of copper-nickel mining.  “We are with you and will file suit and make them prove their case.”  Mr. Shelby explained that the MCEA is different from some of the other environmental groups — “Our bite is worse than our bark.”

Citizens statewide enjoy mining’s tax and royalty revenues

Mining has kept northeastern Minnesota alive for better than a century. Sustainable Ely supporters are aware that mining is a statutorily protected endeavor in Minnesota, yet they tread on the property rights of all Minnesota citizens. The tax and royalty revenues produced by mining are enjoyed by citizens statewide – not just the privileged few who act on the proposition that they are the gatekeepers to control access to the Boundary Waters. They seek to take your rights to the revenues generated by your property, i.e., the minerals owned by the citizens of Minnesota. They claim that protecting the water trumps the citizen’s property interest. But to prevail in this “war” they must offer irrefutable facts, not merely their opinions, that nonferrous mining will pollute the waterways. 

So, what’s next, Sustainable Ely? From lawyer to lawyer, I suspect it’s off to court, where several of its founders earned a reputation as environmental litigators. All we can ask is that you are satisfied that your evidence supporting your opposition to mining in the Boundary Waters watershed meets the Rule 11 threshold and that you file your actions in Minnesota federal court rather than in Illinois or the District of Columbia. And, if you fail, that you have the financial resources to make the citizens of Minnesota whole for damages resulting from your actions.

Gerald M. Tyler is chairman, president and executive director of Up North Jobs Inc. 


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