Sertich is right, tourism and mining can co-exist and Ely is living proof

At a forum on mining last week there was a question asked on how some people can think  tourism and mining are on equal economic footing.
Fielding the question was IRRRB commissioner Tony Sertich, a former legislator who knows how to answer questions with a politically correct answer.
The question came from a pro-mining group and was directed at those who say tourism and mining cannot co-exist.
Sertich pointed out that in northeast Minnesota, the two industries have co-existed for the past 130 years. He admitted there has been tension but there is an opportunity to strike balance.
Sertich used Ely as an example where mining and tourism have existed. “It’s not always the most pleasant conversations to have,” Sertich admitted and then wondered if waiters are instructed not to talk about mining, logging, BWCA and now wolves and bears.
“They can talk politics and religion, those are the easy topics,” said Sertich.
He may have been jesting with the politics and religion comment but we agree that mining and tourism can and have existed right here in Ely. Mining in Ely was in full-force from the 1880s  until the Pioneer Mine closed in 1967.
Even today there are many families who are able to live here because of a mining income. They may work at Northshore Mine in Babbitt or at one of the taconite mines in Mt. Iron, Virginia, Eveleth or Nashwauk. But they live in Ely and they help make our community go.
There was another term Sertich used that should be food for thought as well.
“I fall into the ‘yes and’ instead of the ‘either or’ category,” said Sertich.
Yes, we can have environmentally responsible mining right here along with a tourism economy. We’ve heard the argument that Ely tourism is being hurt today by the anti-mining crowd that uses scare tactics about the water being polluted.
This may help sell bottled water to people going on canoe trips but it doesn’t do any good for the businesses that are impacted by fewer people coming here due to misinformation.
“I think those people who are pushing an ‘either or’ argument are really dividing our communities,” said Sertich.
He’s right and that division will continue unless there is an opportunity for the process to play itself out.
Let the agencies do their job in reviewing applications for new mines and applying the toughest environmental standards in the world.
Only if these companies can meet every requirement and follow every regulation should mining be allowed. Our need for these minerals is not going to go away.
Just this past week there was a story in the state’s largest daily newspaper on how copper bullets are more environmentally-friendly than lead for hunting deer and other big game.
Our first thought was, “That’s great, another use for copper and an environmentally friendly one at that.”