Ely Echo Editorial: Anti-mining study’s sky is falling conclusions cater to fear, speculation

A study championed by copper-nickel mining opponents and detailed a couple of weeks ago before Ely’s Tuesday Group makes the case that despite the addition of several hundred new jobs, the Twin Metals Minnesota project would ultimately hurt - and not help - our local economy.
In the long run, we were told, the region would be better served by maintaining its current economic model.
There were charts and data to support this conclusion, although even the study - conducted by a Harvard professor - shows that the Twin Metals would provide an initial boost to the economy.
That boost would last anywhere from two-to-11 years, we were told, but from that point on any gains as a result of the Twin Metals project would be offset by “negative impacts on recreation industries and in-migration” to the study area - which went far beyond Ely to include all of St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties.
That’s one of several red flags that pops up when looking at the synopsis of this report.
It admittedly does not look at the Ely area as a whole, and there’s no answer to the question of what net impact Twin Metals may have on the 55731 zip code exclusively, or even Ely and its immediate surrounding area.
We’re also hard-pressed to buy into conclusions that Twin Metals would have any negative impact at all on the economies of Duluth, Grand Marais, Cook, Virginia, Two Harbors, Hibbing or any of the other communities included in this report.
The study makes the case that Twin Metals would damage the region’s tourism industry, but that seems to be purely speculative.
Would fewer people visit Duluth’s harbor area, or would the Cook McDonald’s have fewer employees, if a copper-nickel mine is built outside of Ely? That’s simply ridiculous and doesn’t pass the smell test.
So too, we believe, is speculation that the tourism economy will be destroyed because of the existence of an underground mine outside of Ely.
Longtime Ely area resident Bill Erzar made a good point - during a question and answer session at the Tuesday Group presentation - that there were more people visiting the area when Ely’s Pioneer Mine was up and running a half-century ago.
We were also told that if the Twin Metals project comes to fruition, it would hurt “in-migration” to the region and perhaps discourage budding entrepreneurs from locating their businesses here.
While there’s no doubt the region has benefited from retirees have migrated to the area, the local economy is hardly thriving as a result. Businesses have closed, school enrollments have plummeted and Ely isn’t even what it was a decade or two ago.
The growth of Ely as a retirement community is hardly reason to turn a blind eye to hundreds of new jobs and associated spin-off employment.
On a broader scale, it’s speculation at best and pure BS if you really get down to it, to suggest that Twin Metals would stop anyone from moving to Duluth or Grand Marais. Sorry, doesn’t pass the smell test.
Finally, by the study’s own estimates, new mining jobs carry an average wage of $73,000 per year, compared to just $21,000 annually in the tourism industry.
That’s reason enough to continue to explore and continue the path toward permitting the Twin Metals mine near Ely.
Even the study bally-hooed by the “antis” shows a boost, and one would surmise by the constrictions of the study that in the Ely area the boost would be more significant than it would be 50 or 100 miles away.
No matter how one slices it, an environmentally-safe copper-nickel mine that meets or exceeds state permitting standards - as Twin Metals intends to do - would be good for the Ely area.
It would create more jobs, boost population and raise the standard of living in the Ely area - no matter how the naysayers try to spin it.