Thank you all for reading our site and if you are Facebook members, for your participation in Fight For Mining Minnesota.
I am a non-miner. My roots are have been firmly entrenched for my entire life in tourism and along with that, for 30+ years, retail sales of outdoor products like canoes, camping gear, fishing tackle, and ice fishing gear. I am also an artist and enjoy painting the wilderness in which I have lived and worked my entire life. I live surrounded by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on three sides. Our business has coexisted with mining, logging, and what is now the protected Boundary Waters for three generations. Our resort, Northwind Lodge, has been operating since 1944 under the same ownership northeast of Ely, Minnesota.
Over the last decade in particular, as the US economy deteriorated and family vacation dollars waned, we've noticed a major falling off in tourism to our region. There are less people coming up and those who visit today appear to have lost a sense of interest in wilderness and rustic adventure compared to the last 30 years. I can see it in my business and I can see it in the For-Sale signs in and surrounding Ely. Businesses are closing and never coming back. The high school had only 33 kids graduate in 2015 and coincidentally, the same for 2016. About three years ago, the Ely Bloomenson Hospital announced that they will no longer deliver babies. Four restaurants are for sale at the time of this writing. On a different note, several tax forfeit properties are being beautified on the outside, but the buildings remain in search of tenants. I hope the developer does well in his endeavors, but without tenants operating businesses inside, a lot of us locals are scratching our heads on these projects with the low numbers of people visiting Ely for about 44 weeks per year. We need a reason for people to come to Ely to live and fill up the 400+ homes for sale.
Meanwhile, in the recent past, anti-mining activists spread the lie that our Kawishiwi River which originates inside the undeveloped, restricted wilderness of the BWCAW, is the 6th most polluted river in North America. They relentlessly sent that message out and you know how people are; the message ended up being that copper-nickel mining destroyed the river and polluted all the water of the BWCAW. Despite the fact that there never was and currently is NO mine in even the slightest sense of the word, tourism in Ely took a pounding as visitors ran for the hills in fear. (Would you stay at a place where a so-called activist group declared the water toxic?) We had people coming into our store commenting about the sulfides in the water and how if you roll your canoe you won't drown but instead will "die a horrible death by sulfides" - whatever that even means. The activists of Sustainable Ely who started this insanity, declared that the water of the Kawishiwi River is orange due to "sulfides", but anyone who knows the Kawishiwi River, knows that the naturally-tanin-stained water IS orange in tone and has been as such for millions of years. That's walleye and crappie water and unless you know something about fishing, it looks unusual - but it's completely normal. Nonetheless, the activist groups continue their call to panic to sway the opinion of an uninformed public against potential copper-nickel mining. Eventually, their rhetoric changed to include all iron mining in northeastern Minnesota as well since they were distressed that dust from taconite mining operations 75 miles away could end up in the BWCAW.
The anti-mining activists answer to our vast mining needs is to simply turn to China and other third-world operations where regulations and pollution control is determined by corrupt governments, tribal chiefs, and warlords. My response to that is instead of having China pollute the world with abandon which ends up raining into the Boundary Waters anyway, I'd much rather have clean mining done in Minnesota where we actually have rules, regulations, and recourse. Employed Minnesota miners will shop in my store and send friends and family to stay at my resort. They also keep two grocery stores functioning in Ely and other towns along the Range. They keep hospitals operating for when we need help. The Chinese do none of this at all for us. Just because the activists are "Not-In-My-Back-Yard" supporters, does not mean their bad decisions will help us or them. This is pure ignorance on their part and if they were actual environmentalists, they would support clean, managed mineral extraction in a state where clean air and water highly-prized resources to us all.
Full knowing that tourism dollars alone won't bring people to Ely and sustain them permanently, I began this movement as a grassroots organization to fight the destructive lies and deceipt that are intended to bring down Ely and the Iron Range all to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for 107,000 visitors per year. Since the Industrial Revolution, this region has stood the test of time and economic difficulty with mining, logging and tourism all coexisting.
We need other industries to go along with tourism, because I can see why in my own town. Tourism and art is what I do. I can tell you right now, my individual contributions to our local economy aren't enough to keep it going strong and the same goes for the Iron Range. It takes a village.... If not for these mining towns providing iron ore to the US, your life would be a lot different and not in a better way. The mining tax contributions to Minnesota alone are staggering and used in Twin Cities schools by the millions. Few Minnesotans are even aware of that fact.
Being removed from our situation, it can be easy to be cavalier and say to those struggling, "Tough. Move to where the jobs are". I invite those who say that to move to the Range and try to make it here for a while and then try to sell your house. Moving away from your home with no money because there is nobody to by your house, isn't quite like moving apartments in a big city where there are millions of people. Besides that, these people of the Range have contributed greatly to Minnesota and the US for the modest living away from big city life. They've earned their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Neither I, nor my group of dedicated board members are going to sit back and watch as a select group of city-oriented activists and a misinformed public take us and US mining apart for their own potential enjoyment of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with it's declining usage numbers. While as an outfitter, resorter and artist, I support maintaining it in it's current beautiful, pristine state, but we cannot afford to cease functioning outside of its borders such as the activists now demand. The BWCAW law provides for mining, logging and tourism outside of its borders. The BWCA is neither under threat now nor has it ever has been since the day the government designated it a wilderness in 1978. In the meantime, in the face of declining wilderness use and tourism, what the activists and zealots are doing to Ely and the Iron Range, is just plain misguided and wrong.
I hope you enjoy this site and will join our cause if you haven't done so already. Our goal is to turn the political winds to our faces and make them hear us and act on our behalf. We on the Range, contribute greatly to the US and do so in a very meaningful, important way through mining. We deserve the attention and real support of our politicians. We've had enough "lip-service". We are sitting on $2.4 Trillion worth of mining resources outside of the BWCAW. We have proven for 100+ years that we CAN have high environmental standards and mining. Please support our cause. You are employing products of mining right now in front of you as you read this.
Thanks for reading.
Joe Baltich Chief Executive Officer Fight For Mining Minnesota