Latest Posts





Have a mobile phone? Then consider why mining in Minnesota is preferable

This op-ed appeared September 28, 2018 in the Pioneer Press

There is a good chance that you are reading this on a mobile phone. If so, the lithium-ion battery powering it was produced using cobalt. That cobalt may well have come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which accounts for 55 percent of global cobalt production. It might even have been produced by one of the 40,000 young boys and girls the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates are working in cobalt mines.

Fortunately, there is an alternative, and it is right here in Minnesota.

Northern Minnesota is home to one of the largest undeveloped deposits of copper, nickel, and platinum group elements in the world. Minnesota also has the largest deposits of ilmenite, the most important ore for titanium, in North America. Minnesota can do the environment and its economy a favor by mining those deposits.

In our new report, “Unearthing Prosperity,” we calculate that the three copper-nickel-PGE projects – PolyMet, Tamarack, and Twin Metals – would directly employ 1,243 workers and support a further 3,436 jobs across the state. They would generate $2.5 billion in additional output and $161 million annually in state and local tax revenue. We also estimate that titanium mining and support activities could generate an estimated 659 jobs in these sectors directly and support another 3,130 jobs throughout the state. That would generate an estimated $1.1 billion of output for the state and produce an extra $37 million annually in state and local tax revenue.

The economic benefits of mining won’t be confined to just one part of the state. Economically, Minnesota faces the same challenge as much of the developed world; an aging population and declining labor-force participation rate. One way to maintain increases in per capita GDP in the face of this is for the share of the population working to become more productive.

This is where mining can help. According to data from the BLS and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), in 2017 each Minnesotan worker in Mining and Logging was responsible for $404,250 of GDP. In Health Care the figure is $72,165 and in Educational Services it was $46,639. Yet, since 2000, employment has fallen by 18 percent in Mining and Logging and risen by 66 and 63 percent in Health Care and Educational Services. Given the demographic headwinds, this is the exact opposite of what we need, and mining can help reverse that. All Minnesotans would benefit from environmentally sustainable mining.

It is often suggested that leisure and hospitality offer an alternative economic path for northern Minnesota. But, for St. Louis County, the BLS data show that average annual pay in “Mining, except oil and gas” was $88,826 in 2017, compared with $16,542 for “Leisure and hospitality.” This is a difference of $72,284.

If you’ve scrolled this far, ask yourself the question: Knowing the likely origin of the cobalt in your phone, will you drop it in the bin? Or will you support environmentally sustainable mining in northern Minnesota? That is the choice facing this state.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment, a non-profit public policy organization based in Golden Valley that advocates for free enterprise, limited government, personal responsibility and government accountability.




Upcoming Events

  • 2019 Annual Dinner Featuring Candace Owens

    Location: Hilton Minneapolis 1001 South Marquette Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55403

    From Brexit to Blexit… Britain’s exit from the European Union has not been smooth sailing. Since the leave date has been pushed back to October, Nigel Farage is now running for a seat in the European Parliament. That election date is May 23 which has forced him to cancel all American speaking engagements, including our Annual Dinner. Center of the American Experiment is pleased to announce that Candace Owens, the founder of the Blexit movement and host of The Candace Owens Show, will now be presenting the keynote address at our 2019 Annual Dinner on May 18. We are excited…

    Register Now
  • The Diversity Delusion

    Location: Hilton Minneapolis 1001 South Marquette Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55403

    Please join Center of the American Experiment on Wednesday, April 24th at the Hilton Hotel for a lunch forum with Heather Mac Donald as she discusses her new book, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture.  Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a New York Times bestselling author. She is a recipient of the 2005 Bradley Prize. Mac Donald’s work at City Journal has covered a range of topics, including higher education, immigration, policing, homelessness and homeless advocacy, criminal-justice reform, and race…

    Register Now