A wise delay

Published 12:47 pm Friday, October 7, 2011

Daily Herald editorial

Minnesota has slowed, for the time being at least, a rush to extract copper ore from beneath scenic and environmentally sensitive forest lands in the state’s northeast corner. The slowdown had more to do with property owners’ rights than with scenery and the environment, but it was still good.

Minnesota has huge copper and nickel reserves in its Iron Range territory, ores that mining companies propose to extract using sulfide mining techniques. Although the companies promise that they can extract the ore and then put the land back into good order, past experience gives reason to doubt that such a restoration can ever be successful. It’s particularly worrisome given that the ore lies under one of the state’s major tourism areas.

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On Thursday, the state’s executive council heeded a request of private property owners who had learned that a 19th century state law gives Minnesota the right to sell the minerals from underneath their land. The council delayed for six months the sale of exploratory leases to mining companies.

Although that decision focused on property owners’ rights, the possibility that it has also slowed down mining development to the point where it can be very carefully considered, is at least equally important. Protecting Minnesota‚Äôs resources makes very good sense, both economically and environmentally.