UMD report underscores value of iron ore mining, potential for copper – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – February 7, 2013)

 http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Iron ore mining in Minnesota has a $3.2 billion annual impact on the state’s economy, according to a new University of Minnesota Duluth study, but that’s only half the story if copper mining begins as expected.

Iron ore mining in Minnesota has a $3.2 billion annual impact on the state’s economy, according to a new University of Minnesota Duluth study, but that’s only half the story if copper mining begins as expected.

The study, released Wednesday by UMD’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics, found that the existing iron ore industry — mining, processing and shipping taconite — pumped $3.2 billion into the state economy in 2010 and was responsible for 11,500 jobs.

But if the wave of new copper mines and expansion of traditional taconite mining planned in Northeastern Minnesota come to fruition, those numbers would more than double to $7.7 billion and 27,000 jobs, the study concluded.

Those numbers don’t include temporary construction jobs to build the projects like the proposed PolyMet open-pit copper mine near Hoyt Lakes, the massive underground Twin Metals mine proposed near Ely and the new Essar Steel taconite plant under construction in Nashwauk, among other projects on the books.

The study concludes that mining accounts for 30 percent of the gross regional product of Northeastern Minnesota — the largest sector of the economy — dwarfing other big natural resource sectors such as tourism at 11 percent and forestry at 10 percent.

Mining is slightly larger than the health-care industry in the region, which comes in just under 30 percent, said Jim Skurla, chief author of the study and director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the Labovitz School.

The study said mining accounts for more than 5 percent of the state’s economy.

“Regionally, mining remains the single-largest contributor to the health of our economy,” said Craig Pagel, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota.

The study updates previous UMD assessments of the mining industry’s importance to the regional and state economies and was being touted Wednesday by mining supporters as reason to push ahead with mining projects. Those projects are pending state and federal environmental reviews and permitting.

Supporters say the proposed copper mining projects — which also include nickel, platinum, palladium, gold and other minerals — will create an economic boon for the region. Critics say the potential long-term environmental degradation from copper-mining waste and runoff may not be worth the tradeoff.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Duluth News Tribune website: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/257928/publisher_ID/36/

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