ST. PAUL – Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, saw remnants of the mining past and the potential for a bright future in the minerals industry during a three-day informational tour of the Iron Range last week.
Lueck, whose father worked in the mining industry, is vice chairman of the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee which visited the region last Wednesday through Friday.
"The goal was to help legislators from other parts of the state understand the potential we have here on the Range," Lueck said. "Mining and environmentally friendly policies can co-exist through rational, common-sense regulations. We are sitting on top of a potential economic-development boom like we haven't seen in more than a century with the advancement of technology allowing us to safely extract minerals such as copper, nickel, palladium, cobalt and many other very valuable minerals. These minerals have a more stable presence in world market and are less susceptible to the wide market swings seen in the iron mining and steel production industry."
The tour began Wednesday with stops at Magnetation Mining in Grand Rapids, Minntac in Mountain Iron and Mineview in the Sky in Virginia. The group also participated in a fly-over tour of the Iron Range that day to gain a better perspective of the scope of mining operations on the range.
Over Thursday and Friday, Legislators visited Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Soudan, TwinMetals in Ely, the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area in Gilbert, PolyMet Mining in Hoyt Lakes and the Hibbing Drill Core Library and Essar Steel in Nashwauk.
"What's key about copper and nickel mining is this is not a 10- to 20-year hole in the ground, but something that could carry us another hundred years or more into the future," Lueck said. "My family was part of mining on the Cuyuna Range from its very earliest days. I understand the rich mining history of Minnesota. Right now, with the advent of copper and nickel mining, we are poised much the same as those early miners were in the 1880s when we first started to mine iron ore. This time it’s a world-class deposit of copper, nickel and other precious medals. We know how to extract these minerals while at the same time honoring the environment. Environmental concerns of the past have been overcome by sound science, smart engineering and rationale regulations. It is exciting to think about the long term economic resurgence the future holds for this area."