Dear Senator Klobuchar:
As residents and taxpayers of Northeastern Minnesota, we are writing to ask that you use your influence as our Senior Senator to help us improve the economy of our region. As you know, in January 2017 the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) proposed a 234,000 acre withdrawal of National Forest System lands within the Rainy Watershed of the Superior National Forest for a 20-year term, immediately placing the acreage off limits to mineral development for up to two years while the withdrawal application is studied. If the 20-year moratorium is imposed by the USFS, Twin Metals Minnesota’s (TMM) proposed mining operation will be quashed and 650 mining jobs and 1300 industry related jobs will be lost.
We recently wrote to you to explain why TMM’s proposed mining operation is so critically important if are ever to see our economy improve here in Northeastern Minnesota. The data statistics presented below dramatize the disparity between Minnesota’s urban and rural economies.
Minnesota Per Capita
Household income and per capita income figures are often cited by federal and state governments as indicators of economic health. In 2015, the per capita income of the state of Minnesota was $32,157 dollars while the per capita income of Duluth (the third largest city in the State) was $26,171, or only 81 percent of that of the State as a whole. Range cities were no better off. The per capita income in Hibbing for 2015 was only $24,430, 76 percent of that of Minnesota, while the per capita income in Ely and Virginia was only about $22,000 dollars or 69 percent of that of the State. (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey statistical data, five-year estimates).
Household Income, 2015
Minnesota’s Median Household Income in 2015 was $63,488 dollars. Median household income in Duluth was, $45,034, or about 71 percent of Minnesota, and Hibbing, $43,831, or 69 percent of that of the State. In the Iron Range cities of Babbitt, Virginia and Ely, household income was far less: Babbitt, 64 percent, Ely, 57 percent and Virginia, 54 percent of Minnesota.
Other Indicators of
In 1967, the last iron ore mine located in the Ely area, the Pioneer Mine, shut down its operations. At that time the number of K-12 students enrolled in the Ely schools was 1775. Today, the enrollment in Ely School District #696 is about 595. In 1967 Ely’s population was about 6,500; today, 3,450 and it continues to decline.
Poverty Data Statistics
In 2012, the St. Louis County poverty rate was 16 percent, the 10th highest in the State, while Minnesota’s poverty rate was 11.2 percent. By 2014, the St. Louis County poverty rate had risen to 17 percent.
In 2015, Minnesota’s poverty rate was 10.2 percent while the poverty rate in St. Louis County had declined slightly to 16 percent. Duluth’s poverty rate was an appalling 21.5 percent, and Hibbing, 18.4 percent.
In 2016, Minnesota’s poverty rate was estimated to be 9.9 percent, while the St. Louis County poverty rate had declined to an estimated 13.4 percent. (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey statistical data).
In September and again in October 2017 we wrote Secretary of the Interior Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Perdue (copies to Senator Klobuchar) and explained that a five and one-half year moratorium on exploration for copper-nickel minerals in the Superior National Forest was imposed by the USFS Forest in 2006 and was not lifted until November 2012 when its Final Environmental Impact Statement was completed. (See Up North Jobs Inc., Letters, with attached Memorandums to Secretaries Zinke and Perdue).
It is imperative that the U. S. Forest Service’s moratorium on mineral exploration in the Rainy River Watershed be rescinded and Twin Metals Minnesota’s mineral leases be promptly renewed.
If Congress is not able to act, or alternatively, if Secretaries Zinke and Perdue fail to reverse the actions of the previous administration, our region’s economy cannot be expected to improve relative to that of the State as a whole. Northeastern Minnesota’s economy will remain stagnant and lag behind the urban areas and the stakeholders and residents who stand to benefit the most by a Twin Metals Minnesota mining operation will continue to pay the price.