Ely shows up to support Twin Metals mining leases

Wow! Last week we asked people to show up for the Twin Metals listening session at Washington Auditorium. Over 800 people did just that and the vast majority were in favor of the U.S. Forest Service renewing the leases.
There were some great speeches, some lousy speeches, some jeering, some laughing and some heartfelt moments. It was a chance for the people to have their say and boy did they.
Prior to the event there was a pre-event gathering at Whiteside Park; a mining supporter rally at the park; a unified walk to the school and the listening session at Washington Auditorium.
More than one old timer remarked how the event in the park felt like the Labor Day picnics of years gone by, although they were often held at Semers Park. Yet here was a community bonding together, from young to old, from everyday worker to elected official.
Politicians gave speeches on the importance of the federal leases being renewed a third time. There was a feeling of a political rally with plenty of signs to go around.
A little after 4 p.m. the crowd moved over to Harvey Street and, behind a banner carried by the Twin Metals Rockies Ely Little League team, marched to the auditorium. There were plenty of smiles and happy faces, as that feeling of working together and belonging to a common cause crossed all other social and political lines.
The listening session itself was similar to the one in Duluth, except this time the majority by far were in favor of the lease renewal. Whether all would admit this or not, it’s true that everyone wants clean water. This isn’t about that. There are no problems with test drilling to see what’s underground. Heck, everytime someone has a well put in they are test drilling. That’s what these leases are about.
But this mantra of even doing core drilling being the end all of clean water just plain rings hollow. It’s why the anti movement has gained little traction among people in the Ely area.
We’ve got plenty of people from afar who are more than willing to tell us how this area should be managed. But what about them? What about where they live?
Is the water safe to drink in Duluth? Last week the state put out advisories that it wasn’t even safe to swim in Lake Superior. And just this year, in March, the City of Duluth dumped 5.7 million gallons of sewage into Lake Superior during a rainstorm. Where was the outcry? The outrage? The blasting of government officials for not protecting the water? The silence was deafening.
Two weeks ago the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released its draft 2016 Impaired Waters List, which includes 318 additional lakes, rivers, and streams across Minnesota that fail to meet water quality standards and are considered “impaired.” With the 318, there are now 4,600 impairments or 40 percent of all waters tested by the MPCA over the last decade are now considered “impaired.”
Where are these impaired waters? Not up here! But there’s a ton of them in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Maybe there should be $10,000 a plate fundraisers in Ely to save the waters in the Twin Cities area.
Thanks to all who took the time on Tuesday to participate in the gathering at Whiteside Park and the listening session at the school. The decision on these leases may very well be a foregone conclusion due to political pressure on the Forest Service. But Ely showed we’re not giving up without a fight.