Wednesday, December 21, 2011 By Aaron Brown
Five hours of testimony and deliberation produced the following resolution:
“Be it resolved that the St. Louis County Board declares its support for the existing open, transparent and comprehensive environmental review and permitting process in place for various non-ferrous mining initiatives currently planned for development in St. Louis County, Minnesota, and supports the success of these projects, contingent upon the approval of all federal and state environmental permits necessary for these projects to move forward.”
So, in addition to the St. Louis County board having no jurisdiction over this portion of the debate, they pass a resolution that endorses the processes already underway, mandated by existing law.
This time several area chambers of commerce and the mining companies bussed in more people to counter mining opponents who
I had to roll my eyes a bit at the resolution's passive wording, but I will say that this resolution seems to me a fair reflection of what most people who live on the Iron Range believe about the issue. In essence, "That sounds great, as long as you don't screw up the Boundary Waters."
Now, the question is can we ever really know about the environmental impact before the fact? Secondly, is there any concession that could be made by mining companies that project opponents would accept?
I think this leads us to a more worthwhile endeavor. Let's address the following:
Mining opponents: Demonstrate real economic opportunity outside mining, including the prospect of actual jobs within five years. Reconcile your opposition with the current demand for minerals used in modern construction and electronics. Establish measurable parameters within which your grievances could be addressed.
Mining supporters: Demonstrate your commitment to environmental safeguards by negotiating a permanent, binding fund to mitigate unforeseen environmental problems. If all goes as promised you'll never need to spend it. Be clear with local communities about how much hiring you'll do and where the hires will come from. Commit to financial support of local communities and schools. Demonstrate your financing and your ability to keep these mines open beyond the inevitable temporary downturns in the commodities markets.
Some of these "tasks" are underway; some are discussed, but not delivered; some are damn near (but not!) impossible. Both sides are reluctant to complete these lists because both involve very difficult and/or unprofitable and/or innovative solutions. But if you want to mine new minerals responsibly in northern Minnesota (or not) we've got to have an economy that supports the thousands of people who don't have time for meetings like the one yesterday, and especially their kids.
I would resolve that both sides fail to win the argument as it now stands.
UPDATE: After an online discussion I've revised one word in the original post. Instead of saying that mining opponents "stacked" the county board meeting in Duluth a couple weeks ago I now say they "dominanted" it. At that meeting more mining opponents spoke than supporters. At this meeting in Morse mining supporters did provide bussing to supporters throughout the region to attend and testify in favor of the mining resolution. "Stacked" is a loaded word and I've thuse decided to remove it from the post and let people make their own assessment of the situation.