On mining, rhetoric says one thing but votes and surveys say another

The holiday season is upon us and we hope all of our readers had a happy Thanksgiving - and we wish all of you a season of warmth and good tidings.
Conversations at family holiday gatherings often turn to the news of the day, but it’s easy to understand if families try and steer clear of politics over their turkey and pumpkin pie. In Ely, it’s understandable to add copper-nickel mining to the do not discuss list, for fear of a food fight. Nobody wants to see grandma or a visiting aunt or uncle hit with an errant drumstick, after all.
But conventional wisdom and a lot of rhetoric from the anti-mining crowd, aided sometimes by gullible or left-leaning media outlets, looks to be misguided or just plain wrong when it comes to sentiment about mining in our neck of the woods.
For all of the stories about “a town divided” and well crafted propaganda suggesting that a growing number of area residents are opposed to copper-nickel mining and even mining in general, hard facts don’t seem to support those claims.
Let’s start with the makeup of our elected bodies.
To date, not a single candidate who has publicly opposed projects such as those proposed by Twin Metals Minnesota or PolyMet has been elected to office. Not one mayor, city council member, town supervisor or school board member.
Those bodies have gone on record, almost always unanimously, on an assortment of resolutions in support of proposed area mining projects.
Recent election results tell a similar story.
While the presidential election was hardly a referendum on copper-nickel mining, the victory for Donald Trump in Ely area precincts, some by resounding margins, sent political shockwaves.
There was a time when a Democratic candidate for president could expect 60, even 65 percent of the vote in the Ely area. President Obama twice won handily here.
This time around, with the Democratic party being tugged to the left and with the state DFL considering a resolution that would effectively cripple mining on the Range, a Republican candidate for president won in Ely and even in deep blue Hibbing.
At the same time, a Democrat who bucked his own party and took on the anti-mining crowd, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, got solid victories in the region that helped him eke out a 50.1-49.6 win in a district that Trump carried by double digits.
One could make the case that Nolan’s support for mining may have been the difference on the Range and the difference in his narrow, narrow victory.
This election cycle was no anomaly. Just last year, when there was a State House primary election that featured a mining opponent, pro-mining candidates collected 70 percent of the vote in the Ely, Winton, Morse and Fall Lake precincts.
Anyone needing further evidence about support for mining, not just in the Ely area, but in the region as a whole, may want to keep their eyes and ears open next week.
We’ve had an early look at a poll, conducted by a national firm, that shows very strong support for Twin Metals and mining as a whole across the Range.
The details are coming soon, but the results are clear, cut across party lines, and show Iron Range residents favor the Twin Metals project, believe copper-nickel mining can be done safely in the region and oppose the rejection of Twin Metals’ minerals leases.
None of this is terribly surprising and confirms what we’ve believed all along: that the Iron Range and Ely as a whole remain very much in support of mining.
A certain political party would be wise to take notice.