Minnesota has mixed feelings about how to simultaneously support mining and preserve the environment.
But when it comes to sulfide mining at the gateway to the Boundary Waters, the answer is definitive: No.
That's according to Fabrizio Ward LLC, a polling firm run by Tony Fabrizio, former advisor to the Republican National Committee. Donald Trump used him as his chief pollster for the 2016 election, and more recently to investigate Minnesotans' feelings on allowing Chilean company Twin Metals to build a copper-nickel mine near Ely.
The process of extracting copper, nickel, and platinum creates sulfuric acid when mixed with water. Opening a mine would bring jobs to the Iron Range, but a potential leak could pollute the Boundary Waters for centuries. Twin Metals claims to have technologies advanced enough to prevent such a leak, but environmentalists say they aren't willing to take the company's word.
In December, the federal government under President Barack Obama decided not to renew mineral leases for Twin Metals because of the risk. However, Donald Trump's inauguration presented a chance that the matter would be revisited.
Congressman Rick Nolan, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's 8th District, recently asked the president to relax the ban on mining within the Boundary Waters watershed.
On March 7, Fabrizio Ward submitted its findings after surveying 600 registered voters in Minnesota, including 300 in the 8th District. The firm found that although Minnesotans support sulfide-ore mining, 60 percent do not want it anywhere near the Boundary Waters. Even in the 8th District, which comprises the Iron Range, opposition triumphed by double-digit margins.
"Most Minnesotans are not anti-mining. Indeed, the industry’s image is more positive than negative," wrote Fabrizio Ward.
"However, Minnesotans are passionate about the Boundary Waters. Their love for the area is both broad and deep. Overall, 78 percent have a favorable opinion of the area, with an eyepopping 58 percent viewing it very favorably. The love for the Boundary Waters area is not surprising given that two-thirds of voters have been there, with about one in five making the trip every year."
The firm added that protection of the Boundary Waters is an important electoral issue for Minnesotans. Those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who fought against copper-nickel mining in the area by a margin of four to one.
"Even in CD-8, where the mines would be located, and the potential appeal of mining jobs is cross-pressured by the desire to preserve the natural environment, the advantage is to the candidate who fights for the Boundary Waters Wilderness."
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