Lake Superior Binational Forum on Mining

Posted at: 03/15/2013 4:46 PM
Updated at: 03/16/2013 1:16 AM
By: Renee Passal

The topic of copper nickel mining often draws strong support and strong opposition. But Friday, in Virginia, the Lake Superior Binational Forum gave folks a chance to hear facts from a variety of speakers, and make up their own minds.

"This meeting brings together geologists, mining executives, and environmentalists. We need to talk to understand the others' points of view," said Steve Piragis, of Ely.

A big group of interested stakeholders came to discuss and learn more about the proposed base and precious metals mining on the Range. It's something that tends to divide people.

"We need to look at both sides of story," said Paul Maki, also of Ely.

Friday was about education, which is why he and some friends from the Ely area attended. "I'm concerned like everyone else about water. We need clean water."

Bob Berrini, a Morse Township supervisor, came to learn more so he can bring the information back to his group. He also has been monitoring some of the drilling that's been going on.

"You're going to have people against, people make a living this way, or that way. The people you vote in office, you need to trust them and have faith in them or you'll be in trouble. They are going to protect us."

Piragis, who is also a board member of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, wants the government to modify the rules so we are more careful here by the Boundary Waters.

"I run a business in Ely. We employ 20 people year round. We depend on a pristine environment. If it's about jobs, it's about our jobs too."

Pro-mining groups said they will follow the state's strict environmental standards. "Another day, another forum, another opportunity to let people in Northeast Minnesota understand how dependent we are on mining," said Frank Ongaro, of Mining Minnesota.

Besides a geology lesson, folks were able to hear about PolyMet, the project furthest along, as well as the state's research on wild rice standards and the socioeconmics of mining in the region. 

The binational forum is made up of concerned citizens from the US and Canada, with government backing, but no legal authority.