... shows median household income 20% higher than the 55792 zip code

Dear Editor:
The “Dill vs. Rom” headline on the February 7 article about the recent Minnesota House Mining Committee hearing should instead have read “Dill vs. Ely.”
Dill’s attack on the legislation that protects the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Dill’s willingness to sell out Ely-area businesses and homeowners to support foreign copper mining companies is a direct assault on the well-being of my home town.
The Ely area supports 33 resorts, lodges, and bed and breakfasts; 23 canoe outfitting businesses; eight motels; five dogsledding adventure businesses; three bait and tackle shops; 13 campgrounds; eight nationally-known outdoor learning centers and camps; three museums; and three seasonal festivals and art fairs that bring visitors and vendors from across the region.
Those businesses, their owners, their employees, and the many thousands of people that patronize them each year are here because of the Boundary Waters and the healthy woods and waters of the Superior National Forest. Developers of new businesses, vacation homeowners, and retirees are here for the same reasons.
A Twin Metals mine would destroy large stretches of forest, pollute surface and groundwater both outside and inside the Boundary Waters, and drive away people who are essential to Ely’s businesses. It would wipe out many millions of dollars of private home value. It’s not just tourism-based businesses that would suffer. The people who live here because of the Boundary Waters and those who visit every year because of the Boundary Waters are a very large portion of the customer base of Ely’s Main Street businesses.
The extended belittling of Ely by Dill at the hearing (“empty storefronts,” “they don’t deliver babies in Ely anymore,” “community reduced,” etc.) was ridiculous and harmful. Empty storefronts exist in Duluth, Range towns, Minneapolis, and thousands of other places, but in Ely business people are working hard to fill up those storefronts, and they are succeeding. Other rural community hospitals in Minnesota are eliminating routine delivery of babies from the services they offer.
Further, the average Ely household is doing better than the average household in Mesabi Range towns. The Echo mistakenly quoted me as saying that “the median wage in Ely is $48,000.” I referred to the median household income, not the median wage. The most recent US Census data for the 55731 zip code, which is Ely, Morse, Eagle’s Nest, and Fall Lake—in other words, Ely’s customer base and most of its business owners and employees—shows median household income 20% higher than the 55792 zip code, which is Virginia. The same Census report shows a poverty rate of 21.9% in Virginia, compared to a 13.3% rate in Ely.
Dill claims Ely has been “reduced” and implies that copper mining would cure that. Virginia, which is the heart of Minnesota taconite mining, had a population of 14,034 in 1960. The 2010 U.S. Census shows Virginia with a population of 8,712. Mining is not the way to grow a community. Technological advances mean work forces continue to shrink. In both iron mining and copper mining, it takes about one-third as many worker hours now to produce 100 tons of ore as it did 50 years ago.
We can’t have it both ways. Read the Twin Metals 43-101 filed with the Canadian government. Focus on the thousands of surface acres along the South Kawishiwi and Birch Lake occupied by the concentrator, waste piles, paste plants, and pipelines. Read the part about the Maturi Southwest deposit on the shore of Birch Lake likely being mined to the surface and the part about the hydrogeological water flow model for an open pit mine at that site. All of that would be in the center of (i) hundreds of homes assessed at hundreds of millions of dollars for tax purposes and (ii) 26 outdoor recreation and tourism businesses.
Becky Rom
Ely