If you want to see the effect of exposed Cu/Ni sulfide rock on the plants of our region watch the video on this blog post.
The mining industry has proven beyond any shadow of doubt that the waste from sulfide mining cannot be contained. It has no business being anywhere near anybody’s water. Period. Other forms of mining can clean up after themselves, and those could work here. But contingency fund or not, sulfide mining needs to banned forever from anyplace close to the BWCAW.
Secondly, mining of any type is not what our parents and grandparents knew. Knowing which end of a muckstick to lean on is no longer enough. Mining is a high-tech industry, requiring specialized training and/or a degree.
Thirdly, none of these mining companies are based in America. There is no logical reason for them to hire locals; they will retain and transfer the people who already work for them. Certainly these people will have to live here, pay taxes and buy groceries; but Ely will have to educate and house them. It’s a mixed blessing at best.
All mining will negatively affect the quality of air, water and edible plants. No mining is safe where persons live.
I would just like to remind everybody of how Ely became a town to begin with. Mining! Immigrants primarily from Slovenia and Finland came here in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to work in the local mines. Tourism followed many years after. For several decades the two went hand in hand to support Ely’s economy and families. After the local Ely mines closed we were left with a more tourism based economy. Many think that this is just perfect for Ely. Using our beautiful landscape to run the economy. As I look at an empty community center, a school building being torn down, and a majority of minimum wage with no benefits jobs in the area I can’t help but questions what people are thinking. The problem is they don’t have to care. Many are retired and move here to enjoy their retirement. They didn’t grow up here. Their families are’t here. They don’t know the feeling of doing whatever it takes to not leave home. If mines close there isn’t much we can do about that, but to decline a company that wants to invest money and jobs in our economy is stupidity! Don’t tell me that we can make the advances we have in medicine, outer space travel, computer technology, etc. but we can’t safely mine copper??? I don’t buy it. As for the person that thinks all mining is bad. Your a hypocrite. Take a look at the metals in your house, car, computer, cell phone, and possibly even in your body and remember what industry gave those metals to you. I hope you’ve never eaten a fish out of the old mine dump we call Miner’s Lake.
No mining of this scale has been done in Ely, or as near to Ely as the new proposed mine is, since 1967 when the Pioneer Mine closed. To say that the town can still run on mining, when anyone who has any experience in mining has most likely relocated to Virginia, Hibbing and the like (if not already retired), is ridiculous. Virtually no one there knows how to mine, so the jobs would be given to others who know how to mine and would then relocate to Ely or Babbitt. The mine is supposed to last roughly 20 years. After it is gone you will once again have a remnant “boom population” that will have no jobs and will be just as poor as they are now. Sure, for 20 years the town will do well but then what? Towns grow and towns decline. My opinion is that mining is not the answer for Ely or Babbitt. I am not saying that recreation and tourism is, but St Louis County and the rest of the Arrowhead could be looking into their timber industry. It is economically more sustainable over a longer period of time and has less potential for the destruction of the watersheds that the whole tourism “fall back” rests on. Not a huge immediate economical increase as with mining but instead you would have a way of keeping some full time jobs longer, with small bursts of short term jobs. If proper tree harvest rotations were done it could yield a steadier flow of revenue for the region. Especially if we opened a few more timber mills.
We can mine for anything and be safe in the short term but the costs of this mine will greatly outweigh the benefits when the dams break and all the slag waste drains into one of the cleanest and purest water sources in the country. Its never an if but a when. The containers will break, the technology will fail, fish will die, water too toxic to drink, rivers turn yellow or orange, algae blooms choke out the oxygen killing more fish and the tourism will die when all that happens. The companies will not remain around to maintain their containers or dams.
Maybe the town just needs to decline/shrink until its sustainable and people can do what they have always done and move to where the jobs are. Maybe the world needs a shift in ideals, I don’t know. Ely is beautiful and I love the region.
As for the argument that “all mining is bad,” I agree that they are wrong. However despite all our “advances in medicine, space travel, computer technology, etc.” you cannot deny that without those metals that we mined, no cops would get shot, no nuclear devices made or used, no one could use their advanced computer to steal your identity and no one could kill while drunk driving. Making the argument that you can use something for good is showing the same bias as showing that things can be used for bad. No one should be saying that the technology that is gained from mining is bad or good just that the processes of mineral extraction are faulty and sometimes are not worth the risk.
It is a complicated subject and without proper diligence in negotiating through the costs and benefits mistakes are easily made. Desperate decisions usually overlook the consequences whether they be long or short term.
-Iron Ranger/Vermilion Grad.
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