When I was a little girl poisonous chemicals were sprayed freely to kill randomly, to knock down the dust on unpaved roads and dumped into sewers to be forgotten. Rivers in the East caught fire, Duluth’s own waterfront was littered with junked cars and a family drive through industrial cities was filled with smokey haze and strange smells. I was told it was the “smell” of jobs and money being made.
The adverse effects of those actions were documented by ecologist, Rachel Carson in her ground breaking book, Silent Spring, which inspired the modern day environmental movement.
In the words of the late, Maya Angelou “When we know better, we do better.”
What was once a rare event, today I see eagles flying nearly every day above my Moose Lake, Minnesota home. When the sun does shine the sky is blue. We are doing better, but more work needs to be done.
From water shortages to animal extinction today’s children have spent their lives threatened by dire warnings. Our young adults have grown cynical as industry and government concede their future for immediate rewards that have the potential to cause irreparable harm to the environment.
The Arapaho have a saying; “Take what you need and leave the land as you found it.” We must offer the next generation hope by ensuring the land will be left better than we found it.
For more than a century, mining has sustained families on the Iron Range. We have supplied the ore to win a war. Powered by immigrants and protected by unions, iron mining has not only served us in war time it has also provided economic security for hundreds of hard working Northlanders and their families. The development of taconite, recovery of ore from mining waste and new methods of steel making are extending the life of this important industry.
Research and development and new investment continue to find ways to support the industry and the families who depend on iron ore mining. Government regulations have reduced the negative impact to our environment. But over the years we have also seen how mining’s cyclical nature has resulted in devastating shut-downs and the flight of our young people to big cities. Understanding our iron ore deposits are finite we must empower our communities to develop new industry suited for the 21st. Century that will serve our communities and protect the region’s fragile ecosystem.
As a young journalist I was told the 8th District is powered by Taconite, Timber and Tourism. These were the three legs of the stool that supported the Northland economy. State and federal mining regulations and forestry management practices have allowed us to use our resources wisely while maintaining our tourism industry. In an effort to expand our economy a full court press is now underway to mine non-ferrous metals within the St. Louis River and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watersheds.
This new-to-Minnesota mining process comes with the promise of new jobs. It also comes with the potential for dangerous pollution to our air and water by the exposure of sulfide-laden rock and its harmful runoff if it is not done right. This form of mining has had devastating, long term consequences for other communities and we must proceed carefully by utilizing science based evidence along with our hearts and minds focused sharply on the future health of our children and grandchildren.
I am not yet convinced non-ferrous mining (also known as sulfide mining) can be done safely, nor that we can protect our environment from the potential harm this form of mining may bring under the current plans now being debated. One miss-step will burden generations to come. While I agree copper, nickel, gold and palladium are the building blocks of the future…I know in my heart that without water, our most precious strategic reserve, there is no life.
Until there is science based proof that this new-to-us mining process can be done safely I believe these strategic reserves should remain where they are; deep under ground.
For children’s sake we must get this right.