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Mining: What’s it worth to you?

Today’s posting is a thought piece. You’ll have to do the analysis and draw the conclusions on your own. 

First, here’s a screenshot from a story in the on line version of Thursday’s Duluth News Tribune.

Second, here’s a screenshot from the Federal Reserve’s Ninth District fedgazette article that shows declines in iron mining employment.

Here’s another screenshot from the same article showing the trend of iron commodity prices.

Here’s the question: How many “high-paying” Minnesotan jobs will be created if we need to clean up a mess from mining in Minnesota created by an event similar to the one pictured in Canada?  Another question: would that really be the kind of Minnesota we want for our children? These are not easy questions to answer. Sheila Packa has created a book of poems based on the Iron Range, it’s people and history. Something more to think about. Is history destiny?

This post was written by John Harrington and originally published on My Minnesota. Follow John on Twitter: @JohnHthePoet.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by THOMAS REYNOLDS on 08/08/2014 - 10:52 am.

    Fear Mongers

    There are always going to be natural and man made disasters… the Polymet question is one of high employment, significant tax revenues, and production of strategic minerals vs fear that something might happen to harm the current environment.

    There are never complete assurances by either man nor nature, yet fear always stands in the way of living one’s life, earning a living, and being productive.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 08/08/2014 - 12:22 pm.

      The same firm and same process for both mines

      According to the Duluth News article this is the same containment strategy and company proposed for PolyMet and it failed miserably. Is your argument that we should willingly create disasters so PolyMet can make a buck?

      I wonder if the PolyMet folks would agree to drink that water to assure us everything is fine.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/08/2014 - 04:03 pm.

      Logic 101

      I’m sorry, Thomas, but you used extremely poor logic and poor facts in your post. Yes, disasters do indeed happen, but that’s no reason to give them a collective shrug and pretend that it’s OK to let them roll us over like a mugger in a dark alley. For natural disasters, we do our best to mitigate the worst of the effects. Houses aren’t built on floodplains, tie-down brackets are used on roofs and floor joists to keep houses together in the event of a tornado, sump pumps for flooded basements, cross-bracing beams against earthquakes, and so on.

      We take real concrete steps to minimize the disasters not because we’re paralyzed with fear, but because it’s cheaper to implement a few common sense techniques to save a house than it is to build a new one.

      So it goes with man-made disasters like Polymet. Sure, we’ll get a few well paying jobs for a scant twenty years and we’ll get some money in taxes. One can hardly claim that will be “high employment” when it’s just a few jobs for a few people.

      The ore runs out and then what? The employees are laid off and collect unemployment, erasing a good portion of the taxes earned from the operation. In the meantime the tailings pool starts to leak into the groundwater and the State of Minnesota takes Polymet to court to try and recover some of the cost of mitigating the pollution. Polymet then promptly declares bankruptcy after they vote big bonuses to their executives.

      Think it won’t happen? Mining companies have already done exactly that in Montana.

      In the meantime Minnesota taxpayers are stuck with a superfund site that’s projected to last a minimum of 500 years. What a deal! Polymet gets twenty years of ore and the rest of the taxpayers get a clean-up bill that has installment payments for AT LEAST 500 years.

      Gosh, if only someone could have predicted that disaster and stopped it before it ever started.

      Natural disasters we can’t always avoid. Man-made ones we can. Be smarter than that.

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 08/08/2014 - 05:37 pm.

      With Rights Come Responsibilities

      Certainly, in America we believe that people have the right to earn a living, be productive and live their lives. But that right ends where it degrades the lives of other people – particularly when the outcome was foreseeable and could have been avoided. I would argue that this principle extends not only to other people, but to the other living beings with which we share the planet, and the health of the biosphere that supports all life, including ours.

      As Mr. Hintz points out so well, containment and mitigation procedures will need to be in continuous operation for 500 years if the Polymet mine goes forward. The notion would be laughable were its implications not so grave. No one can guarantee anything for 500 years. Not even that there will be a State of Minnesota or United States as recognizable political entities to carry out these processes centuries from now. The political entities may or may not be there, but there will be people, some of whom may be your descendents. Do you wish to bequeath to them a degraded environment and diminished ability to pursue the right you cherish?

      This type of mining has never been carried out successfully, from an environmental point of view. Never, anywhere. Why on Earth (so to speak) would we want to use Minnesota’s precious & fragile north woods & water to prove that, yup, once again, the assurances were worthless and containment does not work? And for what? A small number of jobs and profits that will mostly leave the state? It is not a good deal.

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