I’ve been writing how this summer is building toward a contention boiling point on the nonferrous mineral mining issue. We’re waiting for PolyMet to release its updated EIS after the EPA rejected its last one. Over in Wisconsin we’ve seen much more sharp-edged protesting and company overreaction to local mining debates than we have seen here in Minnesota.
Minnesota environmental activist Nathan Ness sent me the video you’ll see below. The video combines comments taken from a post-election Mesabi Daily News interview by freshman State Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) and juxtaposes them with clips pulled from an impromptu questioning of Metsa at a pro-mining event on the Iron Range.
I’m not here to endorse or condemn the content of the video. It is very much smash-edited with a point of view opposed to mining. Still, Ness’s questions deserve a thoughtful response, and I’m hoping we get to the heart of this thing sooner than later.
Ness argues that it’s time to stop being “Minnesota Nice,” with the polite exchange of soundbites, and get into the reality of the debate. This more aggressive approach certainly indicates a tone that will only amplify as the summer wears on.
Of course, the most important thing to find out is not what Metsa said and when about whether or not some environmentalists lied about one thing or the other. The important thing is to find out whether the economic impact of new mining is worth the environmental risk. Or whether the companies involved are willing to finance the technology and environmental protections they promise at this early stage. Or whether these companies will finance the projects, period, given the fact that some stakeholders will certainly go to court to stop these projects.
The video fails to move the needle on my own conflicted opinions about nonferrous mining projects in northeastern Minnesota. I’m again left with questions, not answers.
I continue to believe that, as a region, effort spent to diversify our economy would be much more valuable than working ourselves up over this debate. We’ve lost 40 percent of our population and half our mining jobs — thousands of them — since 1980. Mining opponents must suggest alternative economic plans. Mining supporters must acknowledge that new mining jobs are a small percentage of the kinds of work and workers we’ll need for this area to prosper.
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