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Tuesday Talk: How to balance jobs and environment?

September 27, 2011 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

New processing practices have northern Minnesota on the verge of another mining boom that promises jobs and economic development extracting copper, nickel and precious metals. However, this mining would likely elevate sulfate levels, which could have a serious impact on nearby waterways, decimating several of Minnesota’s key natural resources.

How do we balance mining jobs and economic development with protecting Northern Minnesota’s ecology and tourism industry?

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  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    September 27, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Here you go fear mongering again Joe. Statements like; “would likely elevate sulfate levels”, and “decimating several of Minnesotas key natural resourses”, are absolutely contradictory and as yet unproven noncense. Show some proof of how sulfate levels are going to be elivated by proposed processes and name these key resourse that are going to be decimated as well as how. This is baiting and fear mongering of the worst and most unjust kind.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    September 27, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Joe, the article you site is more of the same, biased fear mongering without the slightest factual evidence to back it up. One could equally assume from Stephanies article that this issue is going to be used to undermine many of our local communities and drive us all off the land just to save your playground on very thin evidence of any potential harm.

  • Craig David says:

    September 27, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Protect the waterways to the maximum.  Use new technology to re-purify water. Yes, the jobs are important. Yes, the mined elements are necessary for advanced industry and technology.

    But never at ANY cost to clean water and air. None!
    Make certain that the process is vetted out and certified to be environmentally safe.

  • Dana says:

    September 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Mr. Hamm,

    Fear mongering?

    What Joe wrote is an opinion piece.
    One that is based on facts but may not be “balanced” to your taste. Your response is based on opinion with NO facts. I agree with you that it would be best if Joe included references to his claims but you can get plenty of information easily with what is commonly referred to as a “google” of the terms you want more info about.

    Joe hass good points. And has essentially asked a very central and valid question. How will MN balance current economic concerns against the possibility of non reversible environmental damage. I aam not a “tree hugger”. I have cut far too many of them down to wear that label. But I do think we need to strike a balance with those two (and a few other) concerns if we are to exploit our natural resources in the near future even more than we now do.

    Here’s my opinion. Require a deposit. A very large deposit. One large enough to ruin the companys mining and processing our states minerals if they screw up. If a company can’t afford that they won;t be able to afford to fix environmental damage after they cause it. Minerals will retain their value in the ground. Probably even grow in value. No need to rush to exploit them. At least not so quickly that we have to ignore concerns liek the ones Joe raises.

  • Dorothy Doyle says:

    September 27, 2011 at 8:51 am

    “Nature sustains us. The food we eat comes from the soil. If we do not protect the environment, we are indeed violating our own rights…” Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, and first African woman to win the nobel prize. 

    The burden of proof needs to be on the mining companies that the activity will not harm the environment, or that the effects can and will be mitigated.  Our representative government needs to ensure that this is true before allowing the mining.

  • Pam McDougall says:

    September 27, 2011 at 11:48 am

      When will people realize that the environment is more important than the economy. Our world is at a critical point. If we do not take care of the environment, we have no future.

  • Jim Weygand says:

    September 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I would agree with Dana. We need to look very carefully at this mining proposal. I think it can be done without destroying the environment, but it will be expensive. But, it will be expensive to Minnesotans if we allow quick profit and jobs to destroy the environment of this region.

    Today it may not make sense to take advantage of this mineral wealth, but in the future the increased value of the resources and improved technology may make mining possible.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    September 27, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I agree with those who say the environment must come first.  There must be other ways to create jobs than to allow mining that could very well destroy the water quality and the entire tourism industry of Northern Minnesota.

  • Dana says:

    September 27, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I is more than simply protecting our environment..which like ore in the ground represents a natural resource..and asset in economic terms. And if we allow that asset to be exploited for the sake of simply creating jobs without making certain that the jobs and revenue created by the mining economically outweigh the cost to the taxpayers of cleaning u after the assets re gone we have sold them too cheaply.

    Without THAT very careful evaluation BEFORE mining begins we might as well simply light out forests on fire to create firefighting jobs. Mining companies have been doin this a very long time. And a very old trick they use is rush through the preliminary OK to begin and hire a lot of workers. (The first stage of mining involves the most workers) And if “upon further investigation” it turns out that their record is not as good as they claim..or the data they based their claims on is found to be faulty…they have the leverage of “job killing” regulation to keep on developing the mine. If it is discovered that more needs to be spent to prevent major enviromental damage..they just start laying off workers (as the ahve to in the second phase anyway) and claim these extra costs will close down the mine and throw all their worers out of work.

    It pays to make sure these kind of (very common) shenanigans are not allowed to compromise the states environment…or economy.

  • TONY says:

    September 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Here you go Bill. Same old argument that because there is no pollution now that digging a mine wont cause any either.
    North AmericaArgo Tunnel, Idaho Springs, Colorado, USA
    Berkeley Pit superfund site, covering the Clark Fork River and 50,000 acres (200 km²) in and around Butte, Montana, USA
    Britannia Beach, British Columbia, Canada
    Clinch-Powell River system, Virginia and Tennessee, USA
    Iron Mountain Mine, Shasta County, California, USA
    Monday Creek, Ohio, USA
    The Irwin Syncline in Southwestern Pennsylvania
    Pronto mine tailings site, Elliot Lake area, Ontario, Canada
    North Fork of Kentucky River, Kentucky, USA
    Cheat River Watershed, West Virginia, USA
    Copperas Brook Watershed, from the Elizabeth Mine in S. Strafford, Vermont, impacting the Ompompanoosuc River
    Davis Pyrite Mine in NW Massachusetts
    Hughes bore hole, Pennsylvania
    I got these off of wikipedia. The article said that these high acid run-offs come from air mixing with the waste from these mines. Mines for copper, nickel & iron, sound familiar. “those who ignore the lessons of history, are doomed to repeat it..”. Have the mine, just establish strong regulations & iron-clad protections, to the water & the employees. If they cant do that then no mine. A nice job is not a good exchange for giving your kid’s cancer & destroying the BWCA. Ask the people in Pennsylvania & Colorado how much they are paying to clean up their streams. The mining companies have walked away.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    September 27, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Tony, your outright ommisions here costitue a willinfull lie. All these mines you stated are the result of long time gone regulations in other states with a totaly different mining regulation history. What is clear is that you will use any tactic no matter how low a blow to justify your preconcieved fears. As for our mining regulations, all of you need to watch Mr. Lampa on PBS and his series on the history of mining in Minnesota, you want to talk about googling, honest Googling means Googling both sides of an issue. What you folks are doing is pulling the the most highly emotionally charged material you can find and then working it into a fictional account. You have no intention of allowing this to happen even if all concerns are met which makes yours a fundamentally dishonest position. The same goes for all with locked minds in obstructionist mode.

  • Dana says:

    September 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

    ” You have no intention of allowing this to happen even if all concerns are met which makes yours a fundamentally dishonest position.”

    Your own preconceptions were front and center in your last comment. Your fears are too. Which is OK. We all have them.

    But when you start simply insulting EVERYONE that des not completely agree with YOUR PRECONCEPTIONS you have lost the argument. Step back..take a deep breath and try to post comments that are less emotional and more factual.

    Failing to do that will lead ayone reading them to stop thinking you are discussing an issue and conclude that you are simply venting on whomever disagrees with your position. Which by the way I have to assume is esentially “There is no need to closely regulate mining in MN.” since you haven’t clearly stated it at this point and this is the bent of your posts to date.

  • Jeff says:

    September 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    About all that is correct in that recent post is that the mines listed are in different states.  That fact is that the foreign mining interests that owned those mines are the same investors that now want to move to NE MN.  To their credit they have been very open about the fact that they intend to work to get MN laws relaxed (just as they did for years in WI) AND any attempt to require a clean up deposit is a deal killer.  IF they are able to mine these minerals in a manner that is not a threat to the environment and human health why would they need to change the regulations?  Why would they even balk at putting up a clean up deposit if there were no chance they are going to pollute?  Why? Because despite the PR spin that comes from the mining industry, they can’t mine the Range without serious environmental degradation.  For these interests, based in Canada and Switzerland, getting the minerals, polluting while the do it, paying a few PCA fines is all calculated into the cost of doing business; just as they always have, they have no intention of dealing with the fallout from their dirty mining operations.  Mining companies are all about short-term gains and leaving the long-term clean up to others, usually tax payers.

  • norm hanson says:

    September 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Jobs will always prevail in a poor economic area as in always, i.e. taconite amendment of a million years ago as an example where the environmental issues got sorted out a long tiem alter after damage was done to Lake Superior and, of course, Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs, food on the table before worrying about the trees around you.  Again, jobs will always prevail as in always.

  • Dana says:

    September 29, 2011 at 9:04 am


    That has certainly been true in the past. But perhaps now that most taxpayers are looking closely at what the cost of jobs created in that way REALLY is it won’t happen now. And perhaps since the mining companies have use the same old tricks BEFORE so often we have wised up enough to not fall for them again.

    I don’t think anyone is against creating the mining jobs…just not at a cost higher than the actual value of those jobs. I agree that the “create jobs” argument is a strong one. Especially when you use it on people in an area desperately short of them. But it is a decision that is not just up to them. All MN taxpayers will pay the bill for cleanup if the mining creates a mess. So we all get to vote on the decision via our representatives. Hopefully creating jobs in one part of Mn and thenhanding the bill to everyone else (while the majority of the resulting wealth leaves the state) won’t fly..hopefully.

  • Dan Conner says:

    October 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    What the heck is Mr. Hamm talking about?  Does he remember Silver Bay, MN, where mining dumped 67,000 tons of highly toxic minerals into Lake Superior for years?  The State of Minnesota fought in courts for years to get the mining company to stop, but the company delayed the actions as long as possible in order to continue the deadly polluting exercise.  There was so much asbestos released into Lake superior that Duluth needed to build an extremely expensive water filtration plant to filter drinking water for Duluth residents.

    I haven’t seen any follow-up studies for the Duluth are about the ill-effects of the polluted water discharged into Lake Superior.  How about the fish caught there?

    There is no doubt that profits are more important than peoples’ lives in the corporate world.  People are constantly overlooked in the quest for bigger profits.

    Maybe a way to check some of the injurious effects of the quest for ever increasing corporate profits would be to make the corporate CEO’s experience the hazardous health effects of their company’s decisions.  It’s easy to do it to others.

  • Dan Conner says:

    October 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    We definitely need to create jobs.  What better way to do it than to employ people in environmentally clean business and to clean up all the dirty businesses that exist today?  Put people to work cleaning up our environment and working in jobs to preserve a clean environment.

  • Angela says:

    November 8, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I am a student studying science in MN. I recently wrote a research paper on the topic of acid mine drainage and the effects of mining on local watershed/groundwater. While we can’t be absolutely certain that mining in NE MN would lead to groundwater contamination and the polluting of local streams and rivers that act as fisheries for Lake Superior, it does seem highly likely. One of the attributes that has made this nation great, is our ability to learn from history and to plan ahead accordingly. We should take into account the hard lessons that neighboring western states have learned about the hazards of sulfide mining. The privitization of public land for their own economic gain is a serious issue in my opinion. These companies reap high profits, and the local government is left with (literally) millions of dollars in clean up costs. Jobs that were created are lost when the land is inevitably stripped of the resources. What about all the jobs this mining would create?? We could create just as many new jobs by investing in renewable energy, such as wind and solar farms. In one study they estimate that in two years we could create 2 MILLION jobs in Minnesota alone. As a young person who will be held accountable many years down the road for decisions made today, I really hope law-makers will have some foresight in this matter. Here’s a link to the effects of acid mine drainage from similar mining in western states from a reputable source:
    Here is a link to the study I referred to regarding “clean” energy jobs (done by UMASS):