Minnesota’s Copper and Nickel Deposits are World Class

Minnesota has a long history of mining iron ore, which continues to this day. In fact, nearly 75 percent of the iron ore produced in the United States is mined in Minnesota. However, many people may not be aware of the fact that Minnesota has some of the largest undeveloped copper and nickel deposits in the world.

These massive deposits hold an estimated 4 billion tons of copper, nickel, and other precious minerals. These minerals are valued at more than $40 billion, according to Antofagasta PLC, a Chilean mining company that is seeking to develop these deposits. Developing these resources will create jobs in northern Minnesota and make the United States less dependent upon imports of copper and nickel.

Two of the most high-profile mines seeking regulatory approval, Twin Metals and PolyMet, will each have significant impacts on local employment if they are developed.

Twin Metals could eventually create 850 full-time jobs, and the economic ripple effect of the project could support another 1,700-1,900 jobs in the area. The PolyMet project would create 360 direct jobs, and support another 600 indirect jobs in other parts of the economy.

Together, these two mines could create 1,210 high-paying jobs in the mining industry, and support another 2,300-2,500 jobs in the broader economy, if regulators don’t stand in the way, that is.

These two mines would not only have significant employment impacts, they would also make the United States less dependent upon foreign sources of copper and nickel.

The United States is the third-largest importer of copper in the world, and these imports accounted for approximately 33 percent of American copper consumption in 2017. Chile provided 46 percent of the imported copper, with Canada and Mexico providing 30 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

The United States will continue to rely upon copper and nickel for electrical uses, including power lines, building wiring, telecommunications wiring, and our electronic devices for decades to come. These metals can either be produced in the United States, where regulations protecting workers and the environment are strong, or imported from other countries that lack these protective standards.

Other states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Montana, and Michigan all produce copper. When will Minnesota join them?