Great News! PolyMet Wins First Round of Court Challenges!

Minnesota is one step closer to opening its first copper-nickel mine, as the State Court of Appeals has rejected a lawsuit from anti-mining groups who had hoped to force PolyMet to conduct a new environmental review. This suit is the first of several court challenges that are making their way through the courts.

The PolyMet project would bring a massive boost to the economy of Northeastern Minnesota. The company expects to create 360 direct jobs in mining and for business professionals ranging from engineers, mechanics, shovel operators, accountants, technicians and information technology specialists, and 600 more jobs will be supported by the mine by creating employment in sectors that support the mining industry, and by stimulating economic growth as miners spend their paychecks in the broader economy.

This means PolyMet would create or support nearly 1,000 jobs in our state, and the important thing to keep in mind is that these are good, family-supporting jobs.

It’s easy for people who live in Hennepin County, where annual average wages are $66,000 per year, to forget that the economic outlook in Greater Minnesota is not as rosy as the Metro, and that mining jobs, with wages exceeding $80,000 per year (nearly double the wages paid in other sectors of the economy in Itasca and St. Louis Counties), are the pillars that support the economy in the Iron Rage. More mining means more economic opportunities.

Not everyone will be pleased to hear the news about this court ruling, however. Anti-mining groups appear determined to use legal channels to slow the project for as long as possible. Many anti-mining activists argue that people living in Northeastern Minnesota should instead pursue jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries, rather than support more mining.

They may not realize it, but this sort of sentiment is at best, incredibly tone deaf and at worst, very disrespectful.

The people of the Iron Range do not live and work at the pleasure of those who live in more densely-populated areas. They do not exist to scoop the ice cream of people who live in Minneapolis when they head north on the weekends. They are proud people, good people, who are tired of being portrayed as backward or unenlightened. They are the people who work hard to develop the raw materials we depend upon every single day, and they want good jobs that will allow them to provide for their families.

Many Iron Rangers derive a deep sense of pride from the fact that their parents and grandparents mined the iron ore that was converted into the tanks, ships, and airplanes that propelled the United States to victory in World War II. This notion may seem quaint to people living in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but this sentiment is real and it is a powerful source of the regional identity. It seems those who oppose mining are completely oblivious to the pride and sense of purpose mining has provided to the area in the past, and are therefore unable to understand why local residents are supportive of a more prosperous mining future.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. If you look at the addresses for the most vocal anti-mining groups, you’ll see that the offices for Friends of the Boundary Waters is located in downtown Minneapolis, and that the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is located in St. Paul. Only WaterLegacy is located outside of the Twin Cities, with a P.O. Box in Duluth. This shows that the most vocal opponents of mining in Minnesota are the ones with the fewest ties to the mining, manufacturing, and agriculture industries that are the backbone of the Greater Minnesota economy.

The PolyMet project has already been subjected the lengthiest and most comprehensive environmental review in the history of Minnesota, and we at the Center of the American Experiment are excited to see this mine come to fruition.