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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely city council: No need to ‘prove it first’

Adopts another resolution in support of sulfide mining

Keith Vandervort
Posted 2/3/21

ELY – With little fanfare and no opposition, the City Council here this week adopted another resolution in support of sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed.In a …

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Ely city council: No need to ‘prove it first’

Adopts another resolution in support of sulfide mining


ELY – With little fanfare and no opposition, the City Council here this week adopted another resolution in support of sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed.
In a unanimous vote, council members agreed to disregard proposals to “Prove it First,” as spelled out in recent federal and state legislation that would require scientific proof before any copper-nickel mining could be permitted in Minnesota without risking pollution to the nearby million-acre wilderness.
The resolution adopted by the council contends that the recent “Prove it First” legislation “would cast aside Minnesota’s exceptional environmental review and permitting process for determining the viability of mining operations,” and not take into account any previous mining operations that proved hazardous to existing watersheds.
A recently-introduced state bill would not ban sulfide mining operations such as the PolyMet and Twin Metals proposals, but would require companies to prove that a similar mine has operated elsewhere in the United States for at least 10 years, and has been closed for at least 10 years, without causing pollution.
The city council’s resolution maintains that Minnesota and the federal government have “the most comprehensive and transparent science-based environmental review and permitting process” in place.
The new resolution goes on to say that anti-mining legislators are practicing “environmental elitism” by exporting jobs and environmental responsibilities to foreign countries.
Council members apparently spoke for all their constituents and the entire community in their resolution. “Be it resolved, the City of Ely is in opposition to this unnecessary and mining industry-targeted (prove it first) legislation.”
Two officials with Twin Metals Minnesota, along with at least two mining advocates, attended the council meeting but did not speak to the issue.
Council member Angela Campbell made the motion for the council to adopt the resolution, with support from council member Al Forsman. Campbell quoted a regional newspaper’s recent editorial in support of sulfide mining, “I say enough is enough. Let Twin Metals go forward.”
Council member Paul Kess noted that the form of the resolution parrots a similar action recently taken by the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS). “This comes to us from them,” he said. “It is important to know that RAMS, like many organizations, has not supported mining directly, but instead supports the process. We want to support (mining) that is done safely. So far it has all worked out fairly well, and I hope we are getting there. It is always about the process and that’s what this motion is.”
Interim Mayor Chuck Novak pointed out that the Ely City Council has come out in support of sulfide mining for the last couple of decades. “We have been in support of Twin Metals, PolyMet, taconite mining, Enbridge’s Line 3, and this membership has always voted unanimously in its support. We have always said that (mining) has to be environmentally safe, and the attacks that are coming to it are a lot of hooey. I will stand tall with the process,” he said.
Legal newspaper
City property owners can expect to pay more this year to support a substantial rate increase in the cost of legal publishing for the city of Ely.
With no competition for the lowest cost, the Ely Echo was selected by default as the city’s legal newspaper.
According to the Echo’s bid, the newspaper will charge the city $3.50 per column inch for print legals, an 80 percent increase over its rate of $1.94 per inch charged in 2020. The newspaper indicates it will charge $7 per column inch for display ads, also an 80 percent increase over 2020.
Minn. Stat. 331A.06, Subd. 2, states: “no newspaper may increase its rates for publication of public notices by more than ten percent per year, as compared to the maximum rate actually charged by the newspaper in the previous year for publication of public notices…” It's not clear, however, whether this statute would apply in this instance.
In a cover letter to the city of Ely accompanying the bid, dated Jan. 27, 2021, Echo Publisher Nick Wognum said, “While our bid did increase from the previous year, we are still providing the city with a 72-percent discount off our normal legal rate. Wognum’s claim has no bearing on the applicability of state law to its bid.
The Timberjay began publishing a single, regional newspaper at the beginning of the year and eliminated the separate Ely, Cook and Tower editions. The Timberjay did not submit a legal publishing bid to the city of Ely this year, in order to comply with Minn. Stat. 331A.04, which requires that a city use a newspaper with a local office of issue, if available.
Other business
In other business, the city council took the following action:
• Approved allowing The Wolf, previously known as The Heck Epic bicycle tour, to spend the night at Semer’s Park on Friday, July 17.
• Agreed to send a letter to Midco Communications asking for a schedule and updates of cable service improvements and to include a list a grievances and complaints from customers concerning the increasing amount and length of service outages.
• Granted a request from the WolfTrack Classic to close the city’s recycling area on Sunday, Feb. 21 in order to conduct the event in a COVID-safe manner.
• Approved the low bid of $11,900 from G-Men Environmental Services to demolish the structure at 274 N 5th Ave.
• Agreed to purchase a replacement HVAC remote-monitoring controller and updated software for City Hall and the Veterans Administration clinic at a cost of $4,380.
• Allowed Police Chief Chad Houde to attend the 2021 Minnesota Executive Training Institute, Oct. 31-Nov. 4, in St. Cloud.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story suggested that the Ely Echo's official newspaper bid was in violation of Minn. Stat. 331A.06, Subd. 2. After further review, the Timberjay believes this statute is subject to multiple interpretations and that the earlier certainty expressed by the newspaper is no longer supportable. This error occurred during the editing process and was not created by Ely Editor Keith Vandervort. The Timberjay apologizes for any confusion.