Fact Check: Will non-ferrous mining be Minnesota's Bakken oil boom?

By KBJR News 1

July 24, 2014 Updated Jul 25, 2014 at 12:06 PM CST

DULUTH, Minn. (NNCNOW.com) --- One of the issues that is a central pillar to political campaigns is the economy and how many jobs the mining industry can create in Northern Minnesota.

As the leading Republican challenger to U.S. Senator Al Franken (DFL-MN), Mike McFadden is making the case that the timber industry must grow and mining must flourish.

On the campaign trail, McFadden compares the potential of Minnesota's copper nickel reserves to the Bakken gas and oil boom in North Dakota.

"Up in the Iron Range with Polymet, we are sitting on the first or second largest copper deposit in the world," McFadden told a conservative talk show host in May. "It has Bakken type economic impact on our state."

Some say McFadden's statement is misleading.

According to industry supported statistics, future development in copper and nickel mining would create a very small fraction of the jobs that the energy sector has for North Dakota.

"I think if you were to put the numbers in front of him (McFadden), he would have to admit that there is just not that many jobs that would be necessary to mine the reserves that are here as compared to the oil industry in Western North Dakota," said Iron Range Author Aaron Brown.

McFadden is not the only political candidate who likens Minnesota's copper and nickel reserves to the economic impact of the oil boom in North Dakota.

In his re–election bid, Former Congressman, Chip Cravaack, emphasized his support for making Minnesota's 8th Congressional District the "Bakken fields of precious metals."

Experts say it is definitely true that copper and nickel mining would – indisputably – provide a boost for Minnesota's economy; the debate is over how big that boost would be.

"Copper Nickel mining remains the best opportunity for job growth and job creation," said Minnesota Mining President Frank Ongaro. "We have an opportunity to double the industry with copper, nickel, platinum, cobalt, gold, even titanium."

A McFadden spokesman said the republican candidate did not mean his words literally.

The campaign said McFadden uses Bakken as an example to illustrate how investing in the development of natural resources can transform local economies.

Nick Minock
nminock@kbjr.com