Video by Kristin Larsen, story by Jacob Wheeler
Mining jobs and protecting the environment from unscrupulous mining practices are always hot topics when voters in Minnesota’s Iron Range go to the polls.
Rick Nolan, the DFL-endorsed candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s 8th District, wants the federal government to create and fund the United States Technical Institute for Mining and the Environment (TIME). In today’s primary election, he faces 8th District newcomer Tarryl Clark (who lost to Michele Bachmann in 2010) and upstart candidate Jeff Anderson, who has hooked his wagon to the mining star. The winner of today’s primary will face incumbent Republican Chip Cravaack, who unseated longtime Democratic Congressman Jim Oberstar two years ago.
In this video, Nolan talks about the importance of federal research to enhance the mining industry and make it safer. Anderson, on the other hand, calls government regulation a job killer. Clark did not make an appearance, but issued a statement, voicing her support for the region’s mining industry and cautioning against efforts that would sidestep environmental safeguards.
“As Minnesota’s next Eight District Congressman, I intend to lead a national effort to advance mining technology in the United States,” said Nolan, “Building our nation’s mining industry while protecting the environment and the safety of our miners is an absolutely essential public policy challenge for America, as well as for our great mining regions here in Minnesota.
“The U.S. Bureau of Mines was closed by Congress in 1996. Since that time we have done little to help our domestic mining industry or the environmental community to solve the difficult issues we face as a nation in developing our strategic mineral resources.”
The facility that Nolan backs would follow in the footsteps of 50 other similar facilities in the nation and conduct research to advance science and technology as it relates to mining. The facility would explore technological advances in exploration, extraction, refining and creation of advanced alloys for new and existing uses, as well as reduction, mitigation, isolation or conversion of bi-products that could harm the environment.
“Corporations are beholden to the bottom line, to their shareholders,” said Nolan. “They will not do the kind of full-scale research needed to determine what can and cannot be done to prove mining strategies will be both useful and effective.”
While the TIME institute would be expensive, Nolan explained that it could easily be paid for by curtailing military spending on projects such as the Lockheed Martin F-35s, each of which, he said, cost between $197 and $237 million to build and $44,000 per hour to fly. Building and maintaining two fewer planes each year would offset the annual cost of the mining institute.