Letter to Editor: ... not doing something is not an option when it comes to forging ahead

Dear Editor:
A large number of mining supporters recently attended a presentation at the Senior Center by Steve Saari, sponsored by Up North Jobs, who presented information and data regarding copper-nickel mining and why copper-nickel mining would be in the best interest of the United States. First, the environmental controls would be far more strict than in any other country currently mining copper-nickel.
China’s mining standards, the current leader in the mining of copper in the world, does not have the strict standards that have been established within the state of Minnesota and the U.S. This should concern all citizens within Northern Minnesota because it is more detrimental to the earth’s environmental condition and “global warming.” It also would put the United States in a compromised position due to the reliance of imports from communist China.
We only need to look at World War One and World War Two and how the Iron Range mining industry provided steel to wage WW II. The effort helped our country prevail in these conflicts.
Control of mining is a national issue that should take precedence over other issues. Not allowing the mining of copper-nickel, outside of the BWCA, could compromise the next generation’s reliance on foreign countries to provide critical metal products and supplies.
A portion of the presentation addressed past environmental issues. During the 1960s, Shagawa Lake had an extreme algae problem. The lake was as green as pea soup due to a high algae growth that affected Shagawa Lake, Fall Lake and Basswood, which were of primary concern to the people of Ely and the Federal Government.
In 1971, the taxpayers of Ely made a commitment to clear up this water quality problem, by building a new sewer plant to help clear up the high algae count. This resulted in reversing the effects of the buildup of algae from Shagawa to Basswood. The citizens of Ely paid the additional costs for the treatment of sewer waste.
By 1985, water quality was restored and the City of Ely has remained committed to keep the water clean and clear. The Ely community is dedicated to the continued maintenance of pristine waters in our area, even though Ely area residents’ entry into the BWCA is restricted due to the requirement of a permit. It clearly shows our commitment to clean water.
A mining problem arose in the 1970s when the City of Duluth brought up an issue regarding the dumping of taconite tailings directly into Lake Superior by Reserve Mining Company. The fear was that asbestos was contaminating Duluth’s water supply.
Reserve Mining Company constructed a pipeline for the tailings to be transported to Mile Post 7. Within three years, the project was completed. Today, no one in Duluth, Silver Bay or the entire North Shore has reported a health condition related to asbestos. In fact, the city of Silver Bay has a huge tourist attraction near the taconite plant called “Black Beach.” This beach is comprised of taconite tailings.
Several Duluth politicians and businessmen do not believe that copper-nickel mining should be conducted near Ely because they believe the mining operation could potentially lead to pollution of the St Louis River and Lake Superior. Saari spoke about a severe health problem that has occurred in Duluth when the discharge of sewage waste is released from the WSSLD when it rains too hard. The beaches along Park Point have been closed due to high levels of E. coli.
Duluth needs to take control of this situation and solve this problem for the best interest of the tourist and people of Duluth.
Another incident occurred near Silver Bay. A power plant was built in the 1950s to provide power to the LTV Plant located in Hoyt Lakes. The plant burned coal with the ashes being piped to a dam located near the railroad tracks coming from LTV that were used to ship taconite pellets to the loading docks near the power plant. In 1996 the dam burst, causing a huge spill of potash to gush from the dam across Highway 61 and then into Lake Superior. The caustic debris was cleaned up in two weeks, with no loss of fish or environmental damage to the water or land.
The incidents described herein are meant to explain that no one plans an environmental catastrophe, but if one does occur, there is a solution to the problem that can result in a cure and it does not take a long time to correct.
One can look at space travel... Putting people into space is dangerous; the Challenger blew up on liftoff from Cape Kennedy. Does that mean that the United States should discontinue all space travel? The proper scientific method is to analyze the problem then formulate a solution and proceed ahead. Nothing is too difficult to resolve unless one gives up trying. Fear of not doing something is not an option when it comes to forging ahead, as long as it meets scientific standards. Without our travels in space, we would not have computers, internet, solar panels or cell phones.
Saari used acronyms to describe how some environmentalists react to proposed copper-nickel mining operations:
BANANA: Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything; and NIMBY: Not in my back yard.
William Skradski
Ely Minnesota