Skip to main content

EDITORIAL: Twin Metals proclamation: mining foes wage strange, needless and losing battle

Over the last decade-and-a-half, the copper-nickel mining project proposed by Twin Metals Minnesota has faced persistent and largely successful opposition.

Despite its efforts to advance a project that would bring hundreds of jobs to the Ely area, Twin Metals is stuck in a political quagmire.

Permits held by the company have been pulled, reissued and then pulled again in what has served as a ping-pong battle depending on what political party holds power in the White House.

There’s no doubt that Twin Metals faces a long road ahead, with permitting, political and financial hurdles that must be cleared if the mining operation south of Ely - which in some circles has been linked to a community economic renaissance - will ever come to fruition.

That makes the scene that played out Tuesday night at City Hall all the more peculiar, and clearly unnecessary.

As they have the last several years, city officials moved forward with a proclamation - read by mayor Heidi Omerza - declaring the dates of Ely’s upcoming Blueberry/Art Festival to also be “Twin Metals Appreciation Days” in Ely.

The resolution thanks the company, which set up shop here and has a pair of buildings in Ely’s business park, for its vast contribution to community causes. All told, Twin Metals has contributed over $550,000 to groups and organizations ranging from Ely Community Resource and the Ely Area Food Shelf to a myriad of groups that support local youth sports and activities.

In terms of total dollars, one would be hard-pressed to find any business that has contributed that much to local charities and without a doubt, Twin Metals has been a good neighbor and true community partner despite still being years away from producing any sort of mining revenue here.

Yet the rather routine proclamation served as the latest focal point in the ongoing battle over whether the Twin Metals project should happen at all.

Activists opposed to Twin Metals turned out at City Hall and browbeat Omerza and the council for supporting the resolution.

Their arguments were plentiful, among them that the Twin Metals project was dead, the resolution stirred the pot and stewed division, and that it singled out Twin Metals when there are many other businesses in town who also support the community.

While the latter point is certainly true and the resolution may be a bit over the top, we don’t know of any Ely business - other than Twin Metals - that faces organized opposition from here and beyond with the primary purpose to put them out of business.

The claim that it is the resolution that brings division also reeks of hypocrisy and irony.

It was Twin Metals’ opponents who made an issue of the rather innocuous resolution, shining a spotlight on it and bringing the battle back into the limelight.

If these groups are really serious about healing the community divide, why target City Hall over a resolution that is, for all purposes, only symbolic?

Finally, all of the good neighbor, let’s be friends rhetoric rings hollow amid the drumbeat of attacks on Twin Metals and its Chilean owners.

We’re sorry, but the talk of a united community together with a message of “send them back to Santiago” doesn’t mesh, and is both inappropriate and unseemly. If the same words were used about those from other nations or ethnic groups, the resulting uproar would be both significant and justified.

We join Mayor Omerza and the city council in thanking Twin Metals for its widespread generosity and challenge those groups that oppose the project to step to the plate and do the same. If they are truly interested in building and growing Ely, there are no shortage of causes and activities that could use and appreciate their help.

That’s a better use of time and resources than was spent Tuesday night at City Hall.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates