Liberal Anti-Mining Activists Support Wind and Solar Because it Will Make it Too Expensive to Mine in Minnesota

MinnPost ran an interesting article last week entitled “Should We Mine Copper and Nickel in Minnesota…to Help Defeat Climate Change?”

The article was interesting because it discusses the massive amount of copper, nickel, and cobalt needed to build wind turbines, solar panels and for the batteries found in electric cars, and explores whether these metals should be mined in Minnesota.

For example, it takes 4.7 tons of copper for one three megawatt wind turbine and solar  requires 5.5 tons of copper for every megawatt, and as American Experiment has detailed in our study Unearthing ProsperityMinnesota has the largest undeveloped copper and nickel deposits in the world.

MinnPost reports that global copper and nickel production would necessarily skyrocket to build enough renewable energy to meet the Paris Climate agreement:

“A 2017 World Bank report says if the world builds enough wind technology to keep global warming to a 2 degree increase — a benchmark in the Paris Climate agreement — there could be a roughly 250 percent hike in industry demand for copper and nickel through 2050. For solar, it could be about a 300 percent increase. For energy storage technology, the need for nickel could rise nearly 1,200 percent.”

Whiles these figures are interesting, what was more interesting about the article were the quotes by Kathryn Hoffman, the CEO of the anti-mining group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA). According to the MinnPost article:

“Some have accused mining companies of being insincere to say they’re helping fight climate change when they have not advocated for clean energy policy at the Legislature.”

“Actions speak louder than words for these mining companies,” said Kathryn Hoffman, CEO of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “We need policy change to move us toward a clean energy economy.”

“Hoffman said mining companies that are sincere about fighting climate change should lobby with the MCEA for Walz’s carbon-free 2050 plan. She noted Glencore, PolyMet’s majority owner, has a massive portfolio of 26 coal mines.”

Hoffman’s comments are incredibly self serving. Anti-mining groups like MCEA know that mandating more wind and solar will cause electricity prices for mining companies to increase dramatically.

Kelsey Johnson, who is president of the Iron Mining Association told MinnPost that electricity prices for Minnesota’s iron mines have increased by 60 percent since 2007, when the state of Minnesota began mandating the use of renewable energy for electricity generation. Electricity prices will only get worse as we mandate more renewables on the grid.

Mining uses an enormous amount of energy. In fact, one mine, the MinnTac Mine, uses more electricity and natural gas than the entire city of Minneapolis. In total, Minnesota’s iron mines and paper mills used 4.77 billion kWh of electricity in 2016, which was 8 percent of the electricity used in the entire state. This figure could reach 6.1 billion kWh if iron mines operate at a higher capacity.

Our research shows a 50 percent renewable energy mandate would cause electricity prices to rise by about 40 percent, which would increase the cost of electricity for the iron mines and paper mills between $199.2 million and $258.8 million every year. This is the equivalent of 2,490 to 3,185 high-paying mining jobs with annual average wages exceeding $80,000 per year.

Liberal anti-mining groups know that such an increase in the cost of electricity would essentially cripple Minnesota’s current iron mining industry, and it could also prevent the nascent copper nickel mining industry from ever getting started, which is one reason why they’re pushing so hard for Governor Walz’s 100 percent carbon-free electricity mandate.

Instead of pushing for an electricity mandate that would increase the cost of electricity for Minnesota families, businesses, schools, and hospitals, perhaps Ms. Hoffman should spend some time explaining why she wants the United States to be more dependent upon foreign countries to produce copper, nickel, and cobalt that have almost no protective standards for workers or the environment.

Why does MCEA feel they can call mining companies insincere when their preferred policies would make it impossible to mine in developed countries where protections for workers and the environment are strongest? By having an abstinence only mining policy, MCEA is partially shifting production to areas like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 40,000 children work in cobalt mines and was the ore in rivers.

How could anyone consider this a win for the planet? I don’t think anyone can make an intellectually honest argument that it is.

Developed countries have a responsibility to mine responsibly, and not simply outsource mineral production to the developing world. When will Fair Trade Coffee drinkers embrace Fair Trade Cobalt?