Jobs. Jobs. JOBS.

More information helps Minnesotans support the expansion of mining.

Should Minnesota pursue an economic opportunity that could add $3.7 billion annually to the state’s economy, generate 8,500 jobs paying more than $600 million in wages, and yield hundreds of millions in state and local tax revenues?

Is that a trick question?

Apparently not. Minnesota is sitting on some of the world’s largest and most varied mineral deposits, but the state’s authorities seem ambivalent, at best, about allowing—let alone encouraging!—mining of copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum and other minerals to proceed.

This apparent reluctance does not reflect the views of Minnesota voters. Our Thinking Minnesota Poll shows broad support for mining. In a survey completed just a few weeks ago, 54 percent of respondents said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support copper, nickel, gold and platinum mining in Northern Minnesota. Answering a different question, 28 percent said they are strongly in favor of developing Minnesota’s non-ferrous mining resources for the sake of the state’s economy, while 20 percent are strongly opposed on environmental grounds. (More on that in a moment.) Most intriguing is that nearly half of Minnesotans lean one way or the other, but want more information in order to make up their minds.

That is where the Center comes in. Our about-to-be-published report titled “Mining In Minnesota: Unearthing Prosperity” finds, as the cover story in this issue of Thinking Minnesota relates, that expanded mining will greatly benefit Minnesota’s economy. Importantly, all Minnesotans will benefit from jobs in support industries that are created around the state, and by the tax revenues an expanded mining industry will generate. You should support nonferrous mining if you live in Willmar, Winona or Eagan, not just if you live in the northern mining region.

Perhaps most important of all, the Center’s report shows that mining development can be carried out while fully protecting the environment of northern Minnesota.

Modern mining is technically sophisticated, environmentally sensitive, and heavily regulated. Neighboring states like Wisconsin and Michigan have shown that using modern technology, mining projects can co-exist happily with the environment. Around the country, hundreds of mines are operating without adversely impacting the environment.

Many of us have an image of mining that, if we think about it, goes back to the 19th century. My own mental picture of a mine owes a lot to black-and-white Saturday westerns of the 1950s and 1960s. But mining has changed a great deal since then. The fact is that not a single U.S. mine permitted since 1990 has experienced an incident causing it to be added to the EPA’s National Priorities List. (The National Priorities List is “the list of sites of national priority among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories. The NPL is intended primarily to guide the EPA in determining which sites warrant further investigation.”)

For most Minnesotans, putting environmental worries to rest makes mining an easy decision. Our Thinking Minnesota Poll finds that 73 percent would support expanded mining, compared with only 11 percent opposed, if they knew it would provide billions of dollars in increased output and would not damage the environment.

So let’s get moving. The time to create many billions of dollars in wealth, while helping to meet our country’s need for copper, nickel, and other important metals, has come.