Poll finds NE Minnesota support for copper mining

DULUTH, Minn. -- A new public opinion poll appears to show strong support among northeastern Minnesota residents for proposed copper mining in the region.


DULUTH, Minn. - A new public opinion poll appears to show strong support among northeastern Minnesota residents for proposed copper mining in the region.

The poll, conducted Nov. 12-14 and paid for by Twin Metals Minnesota, found that nearly two-thirds of the 400 people surveyed support copper mining.

Of those who answered, 65 percent said they strongly or somewhat support "building new copper-nickel mines in northeast Minnesota." Some 26 percent opposed or strongly opposed copper mining while 9 percent were undecided.

The poll was conducted by Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies and is said to have a 5 percent margin of error.

The poll found 82 percent support "environmentally responsible mining in northeast Minnesota," while 12 percent were opposed.


Of those polled, 61 percent said they support the Twin Metals copper-nickel project near Ely while 27 percent were opposed. The company is exploring and developing plans for a large underground copper mine near the Kawishiwi River along State Highway 1. The company hopes to submit the project for initial environmental review as early as 2018.

The poll comes as the U.S. Forest Service is deciding whether to support or oppose Twin Metals' effort to renew federal mineral leases in the area. The federal Bureau of Land Management is considering not renewing the leases because of concerns the project, on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, could taint the BWCAW watershed. A decision on those leases, which the company says are of paramount importance to the entire project, is expected soon and could decide the fate of the mine.

Of those polled, 81 percent favored the government renewing the leases and allowing the project to move into environmental review while 18 percent said that copper mining projects are inherently so harmful and risky that the project should be denied access to federal lands.

Twin Metals could be the second copper mine proposed for Minnesota to move into environmental review. The proposed PolyMet project near Hoyt Lakes has moved through years of environmental review and is now awaiting state and federal permits to start construction, possibly by 2018.

"Support for the mining economy and for the development of copper-nickel mining projects is overwhelming across Northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range," said Bob McFarlin, Twin Metals spokesman, in a statement releasing the poll results. "This extraordinary support reflects a strong belief that copper-nickel mining can help revitalize the region's economy, protect the environment and create jobs for generations of Minnesotans."

The new poll had far different results than one paid for by copper mining opponents and released in March. That poll, paid for by the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, found that 67 percent of Minnesotans questioned oppose "sulfide mines on the edge of the Boundary Waters Wilderness" while only 16 percent support it.

The March poll also found 65 percent of the 500 Minnesotans questioned favor stronger regulations to prevent new mining "near" the BWCAW. It found 59 percent of those questioned who live in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District - which includes the Iron Range and Duluth - opposed copper mines near the wilderness.

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