Yesterday, Congressman Pete Stauber (R-MN08), who we have taken to calling the Toxic Avenger, once again, put out a press release criticizing the House Democratic Majority for seeking to prevent significant environmental degradation. https://stauber.house.gov/media/press-releases/stauber-statement-house-democrats-war-minnesota-mining
We all have a problem, we are dependent upon computers and cell phones, but the minerals used to produce them, occur in countries where the safety and welfare of the children and family members who mine them are constantly in jeopardy. The minerals themselves often are toxic, radioactive and transmissible through topical exposure. Many of the people who harvest these minerals dig them out with their bare hands.
Sure, the potential of a new mining industry on the Iron Range is a possibility, but only when the necessary steps are taken to protect groundwater and the surrounding environment. Why can’t the industry spend the money to protect the health and safety of their workers and the long-term impact at the same time as the seek to enrich themselves. Health and safety don’t really cost that much.
The limited supply of Rare Earths, which are the elements in semiconductors and or component parts of our electronic world, should be a collected and recycled in a robust manner. Because there are discussions and proposed legislation to curtail mining of these minerals on the Iron Range, mainly because it’s hard to trust the mining industry and their extractive methods, as being conscious of the environmental impact and the potential long-term damage that would likely ensue.
We suggest, siting a electronic recycling facility on the Iron Range as close as possible to Duluth, how about Gilbert, so we can start accepting electronic materials from sources throughout the country. Left turn the supply chain around from strictly shipping out iron ore in taconite pellets to the receipt of circuit boards.
Let’s create a new reason for families to visit the Iron Range and experience the beauties of the state parks and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA)and combine the drop off of old computers, cell phones and other electronic waste as a reason to go North. In fact, this could be an incentive-based program, drop off your device and get a free state park sticker, or even a BWCA permit.
This could be a new industry, which will help Elon Musk get some refined lithium for his batteries, which did require a significant, adverse environmental impact.