As a 56-year member of the Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, I feel a response is necessary to the Aug. 23 commentary, “What the metals-mining lobbyist left out of column speaks volumes.” The commentary opposing copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, without realizing it, actually cited the need for these mines. By enumerating the number of visitors to Ely (700,000 per year), the number of Boundary Waters visitors (250,000 per year) and the number of deer hunters in Minnesota (600,000) the column actually endorsed the need.
How do all of those visitors and hunters get to those recreational areas? Most likely they go in their cars and trucks and not by horse and buggy. And of course, as most everyone knows, a large amount of Earth-based minerals goes into the manufacturing of those vehicles — and it takes mined petroleum to fuel them.
The Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers has as its slogan, “If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined.” This is an irrefutable fact. Test it for yourself. It is not an assumption like the opponents’ that rivers and waters will be polluted by the proposed mines. Regulations and restrictions developed over years in conjunction with the latest available science and technology will provide necessary safeguards to prevent pollution.
Ever since the American industrial revolution gained speed in the latter part of the 1800s, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin provided the iron ore that fed the steel mills. The iron mines of Minnesota provided
80 percent of the iron ore required during World Wars I and II. As many as 100 million tons per year were shipped from Minnesota during World War II to support the war effort. Where would the U.S. be today without that massive source of raw material?
The commentary noted that one proposed mine would be foreign-owned by Canadian and Antofagasta (Chilean) companies. This may be true, but the writer erred by not reporting that U.S. companies have mining interests all over the world. For example, one of the largest copper mines in the world, located in the South Pacific, and the large iron ore operations in Labrador were developed by U.S. companies. A U.S. company also is going forward with the attempt to open an iron mine in Wisconsin.
The U.S. also imports raw materials from all over the world that are necessary to maintain our standard of living. Oil is only one of the products of mining. China has been one of the primary U.S. sources of rare Earth metals so essential to our electronics industries, including cell phones, computers, and most new high-tech equipment. And let’s not forget U.S. companies export major mining and manufacturing equipment to the world market.
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