August 11, 2013

Click here for the article fromDULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE

Published August 11, 2013, 12:00 AM

The economy is a top concern for state manufacturers who question whether Minnesota is a competitive state in which to do business, according to findings from Enterprise Minnesotas fifth-annual State of Manufacturing report released in July.

By:Hal Quinn, Duluth News Tribune

The economy is a top concern for state manufacturers who question whether Minnesota is a competitive state in which to do business, according to findings from Enterprise Minnesotas fifth-annual State of Manufacturing report released in July. Chief among the features state officials should be touting to anxious industry leaders is Minnesotas vast mineral wealth, which through sound reform of the federal mine-permitting process could provide manufacturers with ready, reliable access to the raw materials upon which they rely.

Thats not to say there arent already thousands of Minnesotans working to develop some key state resources. Last year, more than $4.5 billion worth of minerals were produced in Minnesota, minerals crucial to high-tech devices, electro-medical equipment, advanced-energy components, defense technologies and infrastructure. As the nations leading producer of iron ore, Minnesota supplies about 65 percent of the iron needed for the blast-furnace steel sector in the United States, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

And it was just discovered that magnetite, the iron mineral found in taconite, dramatically can increase the speed of electronic circuitry, a finding that could lead to computers and machines thousands of times faster than they are today, and thus new opportunities for Minnesotas $6.7 billion computer and electronic manufacturing industry.

Despite the boon existing iron ore operations provide, Minnesota has yet to come close to realizing the full economic potential of its mineral resources. This is because an outdated and duplicative federal permitting process for minerals mines deters investors from developing projects here and keeps valuable state resources locked in the ground.

The same is true across the U.S. Our nation holds more than $6.2 trillion worth of key minerals that are not being utilized in large part because investors are hesitant to jeopardize their investments in the face of Americas lengthy and uncertain permitting process. Investors instead seek out foreign mineral projects that can be swiftly approved. In the process they pour money into foreign work forces and offshore manufacturing operations.

As a result of declining investment in U.S. mineral development, American manufacturers are forced to rely on other countries for more than half of the minerals they need, spending $27 billion on mineral imports last year alone. And they increasingly are challenged by unstable supply chains. In a 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, 78 percent of high-tech industry CEOs indicated their businesses face minerals and metals scarcity. The same problem applies to 73 percent of CEOs in the automotive industry and 50 percent of aviation CEOs.

But Minnesota is capable of producing more of the minerals that feed manufacturing, which would help the states industry grow. The Duluth Complex, a geological formation in the northeastern part of the state, is home to one of the worlds largest known undeveloped deposits of strategic minerals, including copper, a crucial component to the production of aircraft components, electronic circuitry and solar cells. It also contains platinum-group metals and nickel, a key element in fuel cells, emission-reduction technologies and military-grade armored plating. Overall, the formation is estimated to hold 4.4 billion tons of mineral resources.

These resources offer Minnesota a unique economic opportunity. Just one new mining project Twin Metals Minnesota in the Duluth Complex could create jobs for generations: more than 5,000 construction jobs in addition to 1,300 full-time positions. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual wage for a Minnesota mining job is roughly $72,000, more than $25,000 higher than the all-industries average. The project also will generate tax and royalty revenue for state and local governments.

Such projects also could bring business to area companies. The Dow Chemical Company in Edina, Minn., offers more than 5,000 products and services needed throughout the lifecycle of a mine from design assistance to mine reclamation.

With an abundant resource base close by, Minnesotas manufacturers should be cautiously optimistic about the states competitiveness and their own economic futures. New mining projects in Minnesota could supply vital raw materials while providing well-paying jobs and millions of dollars in economic benefit. To realize the potential Minnesotas minerals offer and bolster American industry, our leaders in Washington must revisit the antiquated mining permitting process and encourage domestic minerals production.

Hal Quinn is president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National Mining Association (nma.org), which advocates on behalf of Americas mining and minerals resources. He wrote this for the News Tribune.



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