By Chip Cravaack
In Minnesota's Eighth District, we are pro-jobs and pro-mining. Fortunately for us, the two go hand in hand. In fact, according to a University of Minnesota-Duluth study, 2.5 ancillary jobs are produced for every mining job. These are well-paying jobs that we can't afford to miss.
While keeping jobs in mind, we will not forget about the environment. I've worked closely with the PolyMet advisory panel I assembled, which consists of state and federal officials, and we believe that mining without harm is the only way to build a sustainable and responsible minerals exploration industry in northern Minnesota.
The long-term success of PolyMet's NorthMet project, for example, depends on completing a thorough environmental review. As part of this review process, PolyMet will release an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that demonstrates compliance with all state and federal standards. Although cumbersome, this environmental review is an important safeguard in the development and exploration in Minnesota's critical and strategic mineral sector.
All in all, this process is geared to be environmentally responsible, precise, and thoughtful. You can rest assured that only the cleanest processing technology in the world and the best mining practices will be used for operations in Minnesota.
Speaking of compliance, PolyMet initiated an environmental review of its proposed NorthMet copper and nickel mine back in 2005. Since this time, approximately $40 million has been invested to ensure the accuracy of the EIS. And although new, more precise modeling in development will cause delay, we are on the right track. Such setbacks are frustrating, but this process will ensure environmentally sound precious metals mining on Minnesota's Iron Range.
The approval of the PolyMet operation would result in a direct and much needed boost to our economy, and it would yield a new domestic resource of raw materials. Ultimately, this would lower the United States' reliance on foreign sources and provide well-paying jobs for Minnesota workers at a time of high unemployment.
Specifically, the PolyMet construction project will engage approximately 300 skilled construction workers and create 360 full-time jobs. A University of Minnesota-Duluth study estimates more than 500 ancillary jobs will be created in St. Louis County alone, generating an economic benefit of about $242 million, including products and services. Additionally, the project is expected to generate tens of millions of dollars annually in federal, state, and local taxes.
Recently, PolyMet reported continued progress with the NorthMet project. PolyMet has been working with the DNR, Forest Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers to complete its complex set of environmental models, which will be used to ensure that the project will meet all state and federal environmental standards.
Just last week, in continued commitment to sustaining a responsible mining industry, the Forest Service announced it was backing 29 new mining exploration permits on national forest lands. This decision, which came after extensive environmental review, will allow companies to prospect certain land for its mining benefit. Importantly, no mining will occur before additional review, which will be held to the highest standard.
While Minnesotans -- and all Americans -- search for breathing room in our nearly stagnant economy, and while tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of work have been invested in the PolyMet project, it is crucial that the DNR and lead agencies do all they can to expedite the new modeling processes toward the publication of an EIS.
The Iron Range and northern Minnesota is one of America's most abundant natural resources, and we need to keep it that way. The PolyMet project will serve as a model of precise environmental review for other emerging projects, including the Twin Metals project. These operations will produce valuable precious minerals with practical applications, such as copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum, and gold. Using the cleanest methods possible, Minnesota's Eighth District will realize the PolyMet project to the benefit of its workers, as well as a protected and preserved natural landscape for future generations to come.