“This is the epicenter of mining excellence,” said Steve Giorgi, executive director of the Range Association of Schools and Municipalities, calling the feds’ action “unnecessary” overreach. “We’re tired of it.”

Jerry Burnes, Mesabi Daily News

Grand Rapids Herald Review

Labor groups, the business community, local unions and politicians held a press conference Wednesday to officially boycott a public hearing on July 18 in St. Paul concerning a 234,000 acre land withdrawal in the Superior National Forest.

The withdrawal, currently in a two-year study phase, would potentially block land in northern Minnesota from future mining efforts including a major copper-nickel project and the expansion of the Northshore taconite mine near Babbitt.

At stake for the Range is hundreds of jobs in a region where unemployment numbers remain higher than the statewide average, while opponents say mining that close to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness would threaten the environment of a national treasure.

“I represent one of the poorest districts in the state,” said State Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls. “This project is critical.”

Speakers at the conference spanned the region’s workforce, business and political communities, who all said they won’t be attending a U.S. Forest Service public comment hearing on the topic, instead waiting a week for the July 25 hearing in Virginia.

“This is the epicenter of mining excellence,” said Steve Giorgi, executive director of the Range Association of Schools and Municipalities, calling the feds’ action “unnecessary” overreach. “We’re tired of it.”

The Forest Service has said the meeting in St. Paul, more than 200 miles from the withdrawal acreage, allows the government to collect a wide array of opinions. Opponents of the mining effort — specifically copper-nickel — have argued the process is working.

But mining supporters counter that it isn’t. By withdrawing the land and decades-old leases for Twin Metals, the Obama administration obstructed the traditional environmental review process, and did not allow a fair shake for the project. Estimates show it could add up to 700 permanent jobs in the region, averaging about $60,000 per year, much of it expected to be spent locally and create hundreds of more in spin-off jobs.

“Good mining jobs create a healthy local economy,” said Marci Knight, representing the Laurentian Chamber of Commerce. “With mining, we all prosper. Without mining, we have empty storefronts.”

Federal hearings in Duluth, St. Paul and on the Range are becoming commonplace, taking place for hearings specific to the PolyMet and Twin Metals projects near Hoyt Lakes and Ely, respectively.

A hearing was held earlier this year in Duluth on the withdrawal, and the Forest Service announced the St. Paul and Virginia hearings earlier this month. Shortly after the announcement, the Range communities began planning the boycott, which is expected to include labor and trades organizations based in the Twin Cities.

“We’re just tired of the attack on our way of life,” said Tom Rukavina, the St. Louis County commissioner and former state representative in the withdrawal district. “We’re tired of the charade of running around the state.”


Free Range Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *