IRRRB Members Voice Concerns with Mine Blasting Zones

By KBJR News 1

December 14, 2012 Updated Dec 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM CDT

Eveleth, MN (NNC NOW) - While $8.7 million in Taconite Economic Development Funds were being approved for mining company expansions and renovations on Thursday, District 5B Representative Carly Melin urged the board to consider the people who live closest to mining site blast zones.

She expressed concern about potential damages that could come with the mining process. Melin cited damages to structures in Hibbing and Kittsville during this summer's Hibtac blasting.

"Blasting that close to home and businesses has a real impact on those people's home values, and a lot of time they see decreased property values because of the damage caused," said Melin.

District 5A Representative Tom Rukavina agreed, citing his experience one Sunday at an Iron Range church.

"Minntac blasted and I thought it was God telling me something, because the whole church shook," said Rep. Rukavina.

But both board members recognized the difficulty of striking a balance between boosting the region's economy and keeping impacted residents happy.

Representative Rukavina quoted a common argument his parents would have when his dad was working at the Richelieu Mine: "My mother would say, 'Benny, the window broke today—the plaster broke,' and my dad would say 'Martha, when that plaster breaks that means I got a job.'"

District 3A Representative Tom Anzelc says developing a comprehensive strategy in the minerals article of the tax bill that considers all mines and residents on the taconite formation is a solid starting point, but addressing the out–of–date Taconite Homestead credit—which acts as a reimbursement for blast–zone impacted home repair—is also a must.

"Secondly, without question, the Taconite Homestead credit needs to be revisited. That is woefully inadequate," said Rep. Anzelc.

"Somebody living in Grand Marais gets about $28 more a year than I do, and I live 8 miles as the crow flies from Inland Steel—I can feel it," added Rep. Rukavina.

...options to consider as United Taconite gears up to blast away between Eveleth and Virginia in the coming years.

Currently Iron Range cities get 4 cents for every $2.40 that mining companies pay in mining effects taxes.

But Representative Rukavina says the primary intention of those funds is for repairs to impacted public infrastructure, not private homes.