The Iron Range and its rich history of mining is in a fight for its future, and the deck is stacked against it.
There’s overreaching actions taken by a lame duck administration, there’s delays forced by lawsuit after lawsuit from deep-pocketed environmental groups, and there’s scare tactics to steer popular opinion against the region’s way of life.
Enough is enough: It ends here. It started here, and the fight will end here.
The Iron Range is done being paraded around in the three-ring circus of hearings, resolutions and comment periods, which are really nothing more than putting the everyday Iron Ranger on trial by a jury of its uniformed peers.
At 4 p.m. today at Virginia Carpenters Union Hall, the Iron Range unifies. Labor groups, businesses, politicians and unions — and supporters in the Twin Cities — are standing up and saying we’re done. They’re calling for a boycott of a Forest Service hearing on July 18 in St. Paul over a federal land withdrawal, and instead will protect the Range’s way of life — on the Iron Range — July 25 in Virginia.
This issue goes beyond the land withdrawal. It’s bigger than copper-nickel mining. This is all mining. It’s sulfate standards and mercury standards. It’s the fact the 234,000 acres potentially withdrawn from mining for 20 years would block expansion of Northshore in Babbitt — a traditional taconite mine.
Make no mistake about it, the Iron Range knows this is an attack on mining and it will have no more of it. The region and its miners, laborers, businesses, residents — everyone here — is committed to meeting and exceeding the standards of the federal government’s environmental reviews. We are not here to destroy the land we use everyday.
These hearings, on the taxpayers’ dime, are a mockery of working government. Go to Duluth, go to St. Paul, Ely or Virginia and it’s the same group of people talking on both sides.
What more is there to hear? And what is there to learn about mining in St. Paul? The Forest Service says it seeks a wide opinion on the subject, so by that logic environmental hearings on the St. Croix Bridge or the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project should have hearings on the Iron Range.
But it won’t happen because this is the playground for the Twin Cities, and they’ll get there “one funeral at a time,” as Becky Rom, the leader of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, has been quoted by The Progressive, a grassroots publication that champions progressive politics.
We have a deep pride in our history of mining. We helped the United States win wars over dictators, the iron ore leaving here by train helps fuel the economy of Duluth and Two Harbors. It builds safe, reliable infrastructure from U.S.-made steel, and the minerals this region wants to mine will provide for the tech boom in Silicon Valley.
We aren’t afraid of funerals, and we certainly aren’t afraid of the Twin Cities crowd. We’re just tired of being the disrespected sideshow that has to explain its entire existence.
The gloves are off now, and we’ll see you in Virginia.