Sale of Mineral Leases Fuels Non-Ferrous Mining Debate

By KBJR News 1

June 5, 2012 Updated Jun 5, 2012 at 10:42 PM CDT

Ely, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - The approval of the sale of state–owned mineral leases on private land last week was another turn in the controversy surrounding non–ferrous mining in northeastern Minnesota.

The sale takes the issue of non-ferrous mining to a new level, as now non-ferrous mining companies are able to search private property for copper-nickel and other minerals.

Land surveyor Charlie Chernak says that the mineral lease sale makes property in the area a lot harder to sell.

"We have had some transactions fall through as a result of the perception of something going on near the property that the buyer was concerned about," said Chernak.

Concerns include that the drills used to search beneath ground for minerals would disrupt the peace that many who come to the area seek.

"You certainly wouldn't enjoy coming up from Minneapolis to your cabin and sitting on the deck and off in the distance hear the pounding of a drill," said Chernak.

Chernak says that this isn't a mining issue for him, but a matter of personal property.

While a land owner may have the title to a property, often they do not have the right to that piece of land's mineral property. This means that what is below ground is game for non-ferrous mining companies to search.

Ely Mayor, Roger Skraba, is a supporter of non-ferrous mining in the area. He says that the mines will create jobs more sustainable than those created by the area's tourism industry.

"My community is shrinking and tourism has not been the answer," said Mayor Skraba, "As much as I want it to be, it just hasn't been. We need some industry."

In addition to jobs, Mayor Skraba says that mines would generate income and help bring property taxes down. He believes that there are ways that the mining can be done safely, without damaging the environment.

"I think that the people who are running these mining companies and that are a part of this are responsible enough to know not to ruin what we have," he said.

The mining debate will continue this week when a bill proposed by 8th District Congressman Chip Cravaack is heard in Congress.
The bill would trade state–owned land in northern Minnesota with federally–owned land, which has some concerned that the land will be opened to non–ferrous mining.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.