Star Tribune Urges Serious Debate Over More Mining

American Experiment’s campaign to focus attention on environmentally responsible mining of Minnesota’s world-class mineral resources has picked up momentum from a surprising source–the Star Tribune Editorial Board.

Dueling studies released within days of each other have performed a valuable public service this election season: putting a spotlight on economic risks and benefits of mining for copper and other precious metals in northeast Minnesota.

Voters not only have a responsibility to learn more about both analyses — one is from a pro-business group [Center of the American Experiment] and the other from a Harvard economist — but also to push gubernatorial candidates in particular on how they’d manage the arrival of a new and controversial type of mining. “Nonferrous mining” could revitalize the Iron Range, but if not done responsibly, it runs the risk of polluting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other waterways with acid runoff.

The paper did not pick sides in the classy column, but rather put the onus on Minnesotans, business and political leaders to get down to business and engage in a rigorous discussion over the merits of responsible development of the state’s minerals.

The next governor will appoint the leaders of state agencies playing lead roles in permitting future projects, including the massive Twin Metals Minnesota operation proposed on the BWCA’s edge. Given this type of mining’s enormous upside and downside, it is critical that appointees are committed to rigorous science-driven review and have the fortitude to buck pressure from special-interest groups for or against the new industry.

The tourism analysis was compiled by Harvard professor James Stock, a former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. But the bulk of the editorial concentrated on American Experiment’s newly released study, “Unearthing Prosperity.”

…The analysis offers a first-of-its-kind look at the potential of all precious minerals found in the region, such as ilmenite, an important ore for titanium. The report draws upon well-known economic modeling software to project that current and future projects would “create 1,902 mining jobs, and support 6,566 jobs throughout the economy.”

Critics have contended that the center’s report did not consider an important downside: the potential loss of tourism jobs. But John Hinderaker, CAE’s president, told an editorial writer the analysis did take tourism into account. “We believe any effect on tourism will be positive. Adding $3.7 billion annually to the state’s economy will boost demand for recreation. Further, there will be more people in northern Minnesota with, on the average, higher incomes. That also will benefit the local tourist industry.”

This week the Center kicks off a statewide campaign to inform Minnesotans on the statewide benefits of mining the state’s mineral deposits in an environmentally responsible way, starting with the serious editorial engagement in Sunday’s Star Tribune. You can read the editorial in its entirety here.