I saw a quote from Benjamin Franklin yesterday that got me thinking about the fight we're in. He said "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."
The anti-mining crowd, mostly, don't live around here. Their perspective isn't rooted in the boom and bust cycles of the mining and steel economies the way ours are. Perhaps they never lost a good-paying job, or had to leave the region to find work and housing elsewhere. I'll bet they haven't sampled the delectable "government cheese" that me and my siblings did back in the 1980's. These folks have no heritage, no family ties, and no faces and names to associate with the massive losses NE Minnesota has and will face with the decimation of all types of mining - so it's EASY not to care about our livelihoods.
By contrast, what have we learned from our vast history of living in this region? Notice how many people that work in mining have a side job, or some kind of 'fall-back' thing they hope to do if things at work go south? Why is that? Many things have changed: whether it's the threat of dumped steel, or our tax dollars paying teachers to tell our kids that the earth is more important than those who depend on it, there have never been more reasons to get vocal about our support for responsible domestic and local mining of all types.
It's easy to sit back and think that one mine closure won't affect you. Even if your situation doesn't change much, look to your neighbors and imagine their pain. I recall driving from the east range out to Minntac each work day, and about when I'd hit the halfway point there was a convenience store on the corner of Hwy 20 and Hwy 135; this is the point where I would see folks heading out to the LTV (Erie) Mine for a good job and a paycheck to match. Once LTV shut down, that corner store didn't last long and it was also no longer there for my convenience.
Many speak about the importance of shopping local and at the smaller places too. Several of those have shut down over the years and have given way to the Wal-Mart (not a fan) and places like Menards (can't help it, I do like Menards). Even though these larger outfits have great wealth and visibility, they will not be able to sustain business without the mining economies of the Iron Range - tourism and retirees doing projects in the yard will not prop up the need for sales.
If you enjoy a relatively safe place to live, without daily traffic jams, and access to good shops downtown and a few big box stores, please consider stepping up your support for Fight for Mining Minnesota. Whether it's a weekly email, the Twitter and Facebook posts, or a letter to any of our elected representatives, your voice matters. Sheer numbers matter. The body count, the head count, call it what you like - it matters. Help us help you. Let's keep the Range alive with opportunity for everyone, not just tent-campers and picture-takers.
Written by Cal Warwas - Fight For Mining Minnesota