Mining debate is boiling at City Hall

by Tom Coombe

There were no action items related to copper-nickel mining at city hall on Tuesday, but the controversial split over the hot-button issue played out both at the beginning and end of the regular city council session.

Two mining proponents and one of the country’s most prominent opponents of proposed copper-nickel projects near Ely addressed town leaders, who took the remarks without comment.

Gerald Tyler, head of Up North Jobs, charged that opposition to mining is a major reason for declining local school enrollments and declining city population, targeting an assortment of groups and entities, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and Area Resident Becky Rom.

“The facts are clear and irrefutable,” said Tyler. Rom lobbied (U.S.) Interior and BLM officials to persuade them to approve Twin Metals’ application to renew leases on federally owned land and issue an order to conduct a programmatic environmental impact study. feed.”

Tyler used his full 15 minutes after being put on the agenda under the business item “request to appear,” while Rom contradicted at the end of the meeting during the board’s open forum.

Rom praised recent actions by the Biden administration that effectively curtailed Twin Metals Minnesota’s efforts to develop a precious metals mine south of Ely. The company is owned by the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, a point Rom addressed during her brief response.

“The science speaks for itself,” said Rom. “As far as national and state policy is concerned, it is time to move on. It is time for Antofagasta to go back to Santiago.”

Rom also claims that Tyler “seems to give me a lot of credit”, falsely calling her a lawyer.

“It’s been more than 10 years since I left the legal profession,” says Rom.

The issue also attracted a third contestant, Ely native and veteran Steve Saari.

Like Tyler, Saari has backed proposed mining projects and earlier today spoke about swimming in Miners Lake, which was once a mining quarry. He added that he had also had lunch at Grand Ely Lodge, which was “built on a mining dump”.

“It’s pretty amazing what you can do with mine recovery,” Saari said.

Saari taunted mining opponents, saying, “The hypocrisy I see from these groups is unbelievable.”

“These people are trying to cut our throats,” Saari said. “They damage our heritage, our culture.”

The remarks stemmed from the first speech by Tyler, who for years has run the non-profit organization that promotes economic development in the Ely area.

In a prepared statement, he complained about school enrollment and population decline and the losses of Ely’s car dealership, taxi service and radio station.

He also provided an extensive timeline that he said led to the rejection of federal mining contracts from Twin Metals, claiming that it was “the result of extensive lobbying of government officials by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and Becky Rom, in conjunction with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.” “

Tyler highlighted developments back to 2006 and opposition to copper-nickel mining here by the Minnesota Center of Environmental Advocacy, and a 2013 meeting between federal officials and Rom, her husband Reid Carron, and polar explorer and Ely business owner Paul Schurke.

Tyler accused Rom, who heads the national campaign to save the border waters, of being influential in garnering both federal opposition to the project and opposition from former Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D).

According to Tyler, the Star Tribune, Minnesota’s largest newspaper, was also influential. He claimed that after an editorial spent a week in Ely interviewing mining activists, “a program was planned to destroy the Twin Metals mine and the message was spread statewide. He cited a three-page editorial headlined, “Not mine. Not this location.”

Tyler said the paper ran at least 20 editorials against the Twin Metals mine and “failed to embrace and follow the principles of good journalism with its relentless, baseless attacks designed to kill Twin Metals Minnesota.”

Rom defended the paper in her response, noting that a range of papers have come forward editorially against the Twin Metals project, ranging from the Tower-based Timberjay to publications elsewhere in Minnesota and the New York Times.

Tyler said he believes “killing the Twin Metals mine will cause irreparable damage to our communities, our schools and the economy of northeastern Minnesota.”

Rom disagreed and invited council members to take a pontoon boat ride on Birch Lake, near where Twin Metals plans to mine.

She said development of the mine, which promises to employ hundreds of people, would destroy other businesses that rely on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Rom cited the Voyageur Outward Bound School and River Point Resort as two examples.

“There are more than 30 companies in the path of pollution from this mine,” she said.

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