“Sportsman’s View: Clean Water More Valuable Than Copper” Recycles Discredited Anti-Mining Talking Points

The Duluth News Tribune recently ran an opinion piece by David Lien entitled “Sportsman’s View: Clean Water More Valuable Than Copper.” Unfortunately, the piece simply recycles discredited anti-mining talking points.

The article states that tourism and hospitality jobs would be better for the state’s economy than thousands of jobs that pay $80,000 per year. To support his claim, the author draws heavily on the personal letter written by Harvard Professor James Stock. As I’ve written about before, this letter omitted key facts about the economic impact of mining and made questionable assumptions that were unsubstantiated by any facts based in reality.

For example the Stock letter intentionally omits the massive economic impacts associated with the thousands of induced jobs that will be created by mining:

“It is important for Minnesotans to understand that Professor Stock intentionally omitted induced jobs from his analysis. This is significant because high-paying mining jobs are able to support more induced jobs than tourism jobs paying $16,500 per year. It should come as no surprise that people with higher incomes have more money to spend in the economy.

Because mining and support jobs pay high wages, IMPLAN estimates that 3,385 “induced jobs” would be created as these well-paid workers spend their paychecks in the broader economy on school supplies for their children, visits to the doctor’s office, eating at restaurants, and on tourism-related activities.”

Induced jobs are a crucially important component for understanding the entire economic potential of mining in our state and they should not have been omitted from Professor Stock’s analysis. By omitting these job numbers, the analysis is depriving Minnesotans of indispensable information needed to weigh the complete costs and benefits of mining copper, nickel, and titanium.”

Regarding the assumptions, Stock simply decided that tourism would go down 1.2 percent to 2.4 percent per year, reversing the projected increase from the U.S. Forest Service.

“In addition to omitting important jobs numbers, the letter by Professor Stock assumes mining would result in a reversal of the projected growth in tourism in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The letter assumes tourism would decline at a rate of 1.2 percent to 2.4 percent per year, or approximately 21.5 percent to 38.5 percent over 20 years, but provides exactly zero empirical evidence to support this assumption.

The footnote supposedly supporting this claim is a study published in 1996 examining population growth in two counties in northwestern Montana from 1969 through 1992. It is hard to imagine how a study from 22 years ago examining even older trends from only two counties in Montana would be applicable to mining in modern day Minnesota.”

If our study was based on such dubious methodology, no one would take it seriously, and rightfully so.

The Stock letter does not even assume mining will harm the environment. This begs the question, why would anyone not eat in a restaurant, stay overnight in a motel, or go canoeing because an environmentally responsible mine is located 25, 50, or 100 miles away?

The bottom line is that copper and clean water are both valuable, and Minnesotans need both to live happy, healthy lives. The average house has 400 pounds of copper wiring and piping, the average car has 50 pounds of copper (80 if it’s electric) and unless you decide to become Amish, our technology-driven lifestyles will become more, not less, dependent on having access to copper.

The fact of the matter is Minnesota has among the strongest environmental protections to minimize the risk of mining of anywhere in the world. We can either mine the copper in Minnesota, giving great jobs to hardworking people, or we can import these resources from other countries that have fewer protections for the environment or their workers.