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Economist’s View: Mining generates 10 times more economic value than leisure, hospitality

by John Phelan for the Duluth News Tribune

This month, the News Tribune published a commentary by Sandra B. Zellmer and Alexandra B. Klass of the Center for Progressive Reform. In it, they argued against Twin Metals and the possibility of sulfide-ore copper-nickel mining in Northeastern Minnesota (Professors’ View: “U-turn on Twin Metals a massive giveaway of irreplaceable public resources”).

“(A Twin Metals) mine promises to be an economic loser,” they contended, saying that, “A 2017 study by Key Log Economics showed that copper-nickel mining in the Boundary Waters watershed would cost Northeastern Minnesota $288 million in lost revenue from visitor spending and lost property values amounting to about $509 million. The 4,490 local jobs at risk would be 10 times the number of new mining jobs expected to be created, according to a study from the School of Business and Economics at University of Minnesota Duluth. The total tab? Between $402 million and $1.6 billion in lost annual income.”

The Key Log Economics’ report was subtitled, “The Need to Consider Real Tradeoffs,” and this need is certainly very real. But assuming for a moment this report is correct in assessing mining’s impact on the region’s tourism industry, what are the economic benefits brought by mining that have to be weighed against this? To consider real tradeoffs, we need those numbers, too.

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