March 16, 2017 10:20 PM
It was a battle of wills and philosophies at the DECC in Duluth Thursday night. And the themes and arguements are familiar to those who have been following the mining industry.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management heard from dozens of people about their proposal to withdraw 235,000 acre of federal lands from future mining and exploration for a period of 20 years. Hundreds sat in the audience, listening or waiting for their turn to speak.
The proposal has the support of many who are part of the Save the Boundary Waters campaign.
Emily Brown, of Ely, said, "Even though the mine will make a good case for extracting valuable minerals, we all know accidents happen. Pipelines break, dams collapse, liners fail."
Brian Ochocki asked, "Is the watershed of the irreplaceable asset like the Boundary Waters the place to find out if copper sulfide mining can be safely conducted?"
But a strong contingent of people from the Range who say they support mining and clean water came to have their voices heard, about the need for more jobs and development for the region.
One was a fiery St. Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina. He said, "We've mined ores with sulfides in them for 135 years. And you people get to come up to the Wilderness, which you love, because of how we've taken care of the environment." Some of the crowd booed, and some stood and applauded. Both sides were told to stop by the moderators.
A representative of Twin Metals spoke as well. Twin Metals has a large stake in this process, as their proposed underground precious metals mine near Ely is looking at many deposits of ore in the withdrawal area.
Kevin Baker said, "Twin Metals objects to the proposed withdrawal, and asserts that is has proteced valid existing rights in this area. This proposal is illegal. It contradicts Congress' original intent for these minerals."
These public comments will be used to create an Environmental Impact Study, which will then help the agencies make a recommendation about the withdrawal to the Secretary of Interior. It is the Secretary who makes the ultimate decision, but that is expected to be years from now.
The Forest Service will be hosting another public meeting on the Iron Range, but a date and location has not been finalized yet.
The public comment period has been extended into August. If you'd like to submit a comment:
Written comments may be submitted via U.S. Mail to the Superior National Forest, ATT: Minerals Withdrawal, 8901 Grand Ave. Place, Duluth, MN 55808.
Comments may also be sent via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or via fax to 218-626-4398.
Updated: March 16, 2017 10:20 PM
Created: March 16, 2017 08:04 PM
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