Forum Discusses Impacts of Nonferrous Mining on Range

By KBJR News 1

March 15, 2013 Updated Mar 15, 2013 at 6:24 PM CDT

Virginia, MN (NNCNOW.com) - One of the most controversial issues in the region took center stage at Mesabi Range College Friday.

The Lake Superior Binational Forum hosted a series of presentations at the college about the impacts that nonferrous mining projects, such as Polymet near Hoty Lakes and Twin Metals near Ely, could have on the region.

"We just want to bring a wide variety of voices and perspectives to the room so that everybody can learn more from each other," said Lissa Radke of the Lake Superior Binational Forum.

Bringing all sides together was what organizers say was the point of the presentations meant to discuss an issue in which there are so many different points to make.

"Ninety-percent of the world's metals, at least, come in the form of sulfide minerals. That's just the way nature does it," said University of Minnesota Duluth Professor of Geological Sciences, Dr. Jim Miller during his presentation.

The forum brought together key players from many sides to discuss everything from the formation of the copper–nickel deposits themselves to the environmental and economic impacts of the mines.

"Thirty-percent of our region's gross domestic product is mining and we have an opportunity with new mining projects, Polymet, Twin Metals, to double the existing industry," said Frank Ongaro of Mining Minnesota.

For parties on either side of the debate, it was an important day to discuss openly a subject that affects many.

"[It's important to get] the message out on the importance of mining to this region and to the entire state," said Ongaro.

"This isn't jobs versus environment," said Ian Kimmer of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, "What I want people to do is come away understanding that this is the biggest conservation and economic decision of our generation and we really need to look at the entire spectrum of benefits and costs."

This was the Forum's third and final public meeting to discuss impacts of the mines.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.