19th June 2013

Copper mining economics questioned by Montana economist – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – June 19, 2013)

posted in Canadian/International Media Resource Articles, Copper, Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range, Nickel, United States Mining and History |

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

University of Minnesota Duluth geologists call it the largest untapped copper-nickel deposit in the world, with millions of tons of valuable metals worth billions of dollars sitting in the Duluth complex of rock under Minnesota’s Arrowhead.

University of Minnesota Duluth geologists call it the largest untapped copper-nickel deposit in the world, with millions of tons of valuable metals worth billions of dollars sitting in the Duluth complex of rock under Minnesota’s Arrowhead.

Supporters and economic reports point to hundreds of new mining jobs if Minnesota’s first-ever copper mines become a reality, along with spinoff employment, huge payrolls and millions in taxes and royalties paid. Mining, already one of Northeastern Minnesota’s largest industries thanks to taconite iron ore, has the potential to become even bigger with copper, nickel, palladium, platinum and gold.

But Thomas Power, former chairman of the University of Montana’s economics department, warned Northland residents Tuesday to be careful in the rush into copper.

At a Duluth lunch forum sponsored by the Friends of the Boundary Waters environmental group, the professor said mining’s economic costs are often overlooked in the luster of a promised boom time. He said many economic reports released around proposed mining projects are ripe with benefits but fail to address costs. That should cause economists, and the public, to bristle, he said.

“The benefits are obvious. No one is arguing that there are benefits. But is there really a free lunch?” Power told about 70 people gathered at Clyde Iron. “No business would enter into something without weighing costs against benefits. … You can bet the mining companies are weighing their costs against potential benefits, and society and decision makers should be doing the same.”

The stress of rapidly rising and then falling employment, the boom-bust cycle, is hard on communities and has long-term economic consequences, he noted. And the environmental footprint of even compliant mines creates a “real economic cost” for the community after any mine has closed.

While copper mining has historically extracted huge amounts of wealth from the ground, and offered high-paying jobs to miners, Power said the wildly fluctuating price of minerals, as well as the increase in technology, has historically led to fewer and fewer people employed as mines age. That leads to more wealth leaving the area and less staying in the community.

For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/270323/

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