Response to Tom Rukavina Letter Two; 7 March 2012

Citizen Mike Hillman versus Goliath Iron Range Politician Tommy RukavinaI see no reason why I can’t just stick with my opening statement that after a hundred years of open pit iron mining near cities like Virginia and Eveleth they are like two islands of humanity in a sea of mining dumps and pits. When I mentioned that all people had to do was take a look at the area around Virginia to see what a huge impact open pit mining can have on an area. Each year the expanding pits and dumps press in closer and closer on the City of Virginia until now even the main highway is going to be moved between Eveleth and Virginia.

Tommy I would like to have everyone living in the Lake Country north of the divide to stop this summer at Viewpoint in the Sky just south of Virginia to take a good look around at the huge contribution of iron this area of the Mesabi Iron Range has given to America. Please don’t waste time, because they are going to dig up the highway soon between Eveleth and Virginia, and I believe the taxpayer will foot the bill, and no doubt IRRB money will be spent in the highway relocation project? I want all the people of Ely and the Greater Lake Vermilion Areas to ask them selves a question: Do you want this mining in your backyard? We are talking the second largest reserve of Copper Nickel and nickel anywhere in the world, and if it is done it will be done on a scale comparable to the mining done near Virginia, and I don’t want to see that done north of the Continental Divide.

Ely and Tower Soudan are small towns surrounded by an ocean of lakes and forest. I would like to keep it that way. How many beautiful homes are there Tommy on Lake Vermilion or Burntside Lake and the dozens of other lakes and rivers where thousands of people have come to build retirement homes in the Superior National Forest? Then there are the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area or Voyageurs National Park each year Tommy. Tourism is a seven hundred million dollar business that is self sustaining. The Ely Chamber of Commerce director just won a major tourism award this year. As long as we keep the land and water safe from the certain consequences of mining non ferrous minerals in the Rainy River Water Shed people will want to keep coming to visit this area forever.

Copper Nickel Mining has a terrible reputation. I can listen to what someone says, or I can watch what they do. In the case of these mining companies, their history of conducting business isn’t good. Tommy you want to try to shame me into agreeing to make what I consider to be a bad decision regarding the future of my home. I think this new mining would be a bad thing for future generations to deal with. To you Copper Nickel Mining is a good thing, because it will bring jobs to the area, but you don’t want to look any further than that. To me Copper Nickel Mining is a bad thing, because of the inevitable damage it will bring to the land and water. It is just the nature of the business Tommy. This type of mining will dwarf any mining previously done in the area, and millions of acres of land will eventually be drilled, blasted, and pulverized into millions of tons of noxious sludge. To me Tommy, non ferrous mining is a bad thing because it will blast the land and pollute the water. Doing a bad thing for a good reason as opposed to doing a bad thing for a bad reason is the difference between cat poop and dog poop, and I for one don’t want all that mining poop parked in our back yard.

You write in you second letter that I was arrogant and condescending to you Mesabi Rangers, and if I came out that way I am very sorry. It wasn’t the City of Virginia I was writing about Tommy, but rather the area around it I was alluding to in my history of area mining. And what’s wrong with me pointing out that the two first class golf courses and the beautiful Giants Ridge Ski area, I believe are located on the Mesabi Range, and I believe they were built to help bring tourists to the area. I wonder how much the IRRB spends on Iron World near Chisholm each year to keep that excellent facility in business. I am not criticizing you or the IRRB for investing in the future of the Mesabi Range I think it was money well spent. I think your changing what I said allowed you to give the false impression that all the money you spent was spent everywhere but the Mesabi Iron Range.

The only time I ever worked with the IRRB was when I wrote a half dozen or so grants through the Mine Land Reclamation Division of the IRRB. In order to qualify for Mine Land Reclamation Money the site had to be within a mile of a mining area. That meant that the Pioneer Mine was in the running for IRRB funding The first grant was at the behest of a group of retired miners who once worked in the Ely Mines and then later in places like Mintac, Reserve, and Erie Mining Companies. They elected me chairman of the Retired Miners Committee, and my first order of business was to get the Sheave Wheels up on the head frame of the Pioneer Mine. Over the years your help preserving a National History Site was greatly appreciated by many people and none more than me.

I wrote grants to preserve and disseminate American History in Ely. Those retired miners felt that their work on the Mesabi Range entitled them to a little funding from the IRRB. The last grant I wrote was a few years back and the IRRB helped preserve one of two radial brick chimneys in the State of Minnesota. Thanks to help from many people including the IRRB, Federal, State, County, and City helped the Miners Dry House become a place where hundreds of people come to visit a beautiful part of American History each summer. Everything made of steel in both world wars had a small amount of Vermilion Range Iron in it, and I thought that history deserving of preservation, but I have no desire to see non ferrous mining done north of the divide.

What you Mesabi Rangers do with your back yards is up to you, and I will respect your decision, just as I hope you will understand my desire to keep the bird now in hand. As long as we are good stewards of our land and waters, each generation will have something to keep them here forever, but if we violate that covenant and pollute the Kawishiwi Water Shed, then we are ruining things for future generations. There are very few places like Ely left in the world Tommy, sitting like it does on the edge of a two millions acre Wilderness Area flowing directly into a National Park. I would rather this generation re-affirms the decision of past generations who certainly thought that this area was deserving of respect and preservation as the only true wilderness area east of the Mississippi River in the Contiguous United States.

By: Iron Mike Hillman

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