In a recent statement, the environmental extremist org-anization "Friends of the Boundary Waters" sug-gested the movie "Ava-tar" is being played out in the narrative of new mining operations proposed for northeastern Minnesota.
Ironically, the group has in mind the wrong narrative from that movie. It is Avatar's portrayal of a "White Mes-siah," swooping in to save the natives of a faraway place from the impact of mining which the group, itself, seem-ingly seeks to play out. Unfor-tunately for the group, the natives don't want or need a messiah.
The group's claims about a nonferrous mining operation near Hoyt Lakes proposed by PolyMet Mining Co. are out-landish in their hysterical and fear-mongering tone, as well as in their basis in unreality -- not unlike the group's movie exemplar, "Avatar."
This tone does not belong in any civil or rational discussion of Minnesota conservation and wise use of natural resources. Neither does its patronizing attitude toward northeastern Minnesota residents. The group's recent statement says almost explicitly that northeastern Minnesota constitutes nothing more than a playground for Twin Citians, ignoring the fact that people who live up north are ones best educated and equipped to ensure the sustainability and conservation of the resources that the group's members want to experience, albeit only while on vacation.
As a native of Silver Bay, former resident of the Gunflint Trail, current Babbitt-area wetland and timberland owner, and hardcore conservationist, I am, like my friends and neighbors, enthusiastic about the prospect for this new generation of mining operation coming to the area -- because I know the facts.
Fact: PolyMet's proposed mine -- near Hoyt Lakes -- is in a completely different watershed than the BWCA, and as area residents know, nowhere near "Hwy 1, the scenic entryway into Ely and the wilderness beyond," as "Friends of the Boundary Waters" suggests. The suggestion that the BWCA is in imminent danger is completely false.
Fact: If any other mining company ever wanted to begin operation anywhere else up north, it would have to go through its own environmental review process. "Friends of the Boundary Waters" suggests that permitting PolyMet to mine would automatically lead to mining next to the BWCA, which is false.
Fact: PolyMet's operation in Minnesota will be so environmentally and technologically cutting-edge that it will be a model for the world -- far from the outdated gloom-and-doom image painted by "Friends of the Boundary Waters." The state and federal government's environmental requirements for this mine will be unprecedented
In fact, this mine might even have a positive effect on the global environment. Indeed, the entire human race would benefit from Poly-Met's operation being estab-lished instead of a mine in some other, less environment-ally conscientious country. Regrettably, environmental extremists often act more provincially and think less globally than they'd like to acknowledge.
Fact: PolyMet will provide a domestic supply of metals that Americans use every day -- nickel, copper, gold, platin-um, and palladium -- in cell phones, computers, catalytic converters, electric cars, wind turbines, and medical devices. The global environmental and domestic economic impact of producing these critical metals here, and having to import less from elsewhere, will be very positive.
Fact: PolyMet's operation will create 400 well-paying jobs directly, and there will be hundreds of spin-off jobs. This will add an estimated $240 million to the local economy and the state's tax base. The University of Minnesota-Duluth has produced excellent analyses.
Fact: Our state's leading policymakers, including U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, U.S. Rep. James Ob-erstar, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty support this new generation of mining in Minnesota.
It's sad that any Minneso-tan would disagree with the establishment of a modern and environmentally friendly mine in our state. It would be the epitome of good steward-ship envisioned by our na-tion's great progressive con-servationist forebears, like Teddy Roosevelt, who fought for the establishment of the national forest system for just such wise-use applications as this. "Friends of the Boun-dary Waters" should leave the "Avatar" fantasy world and join us commonsense conservationists in reality.
Kent Kaiser is a professor at Northwestern College in Roseville and a senior fellow at the Minneapolis-based think tank Center of the American Experiment.