New state mining legislation on the right track

Minerals extraction is among the bedrock ways Upper Peninsulans have made livings going back a century and much more.

At one time, thousands of U.P. residents were employed in mining, either directly or indirectly. Working iron ore and copper mines dotted the landscape and unemployment typically was on the low side.

That’s not the way it is anymore, however. The Tilden Mine continues to produce iron ore in National Mine and the Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains extracts nickel and other minerals but that’s about it for mining in the U.P.

And then the area was rocked two years ago when the Empire Mine in Palmer closed, sending hundreds of workers to the unemployment line.

That’s why we believe legislative moves from state Rep. Sara Cambensy are essential in laying the groundwork for a more stable mining industry above the Mackinac Bridge.

Recently, the Marquette Democrat introduced House Bill 4227, to create the Committee on Michigan’s Mining Future. The panel would be responsible for making advisory legislative and policy recommendations to strengthen and develop sustainable mining practices in Michigan.

“When our communities lost nearly 400 high-paying jobs with the idling of the Empire Mine in 2016, many community members felt Michigan dropped the ball on understanding what the industry needed from elected leaders in Lansing, as well as Washington,” Cambensy said in a press release. “Shortly after, I called together a small group of previous legislators and industry leaders to begin looking at how Minnesota was able to minimize the bust and boom cycle of mining within its state.”

In 2004, Minnesota created the Governor’s Committee on Minnesota’s Mining Future to develop a long-term strategic mining plan. Their comprehensive plan focused on ferrous, non-ferrous and aggregate mining industry needs such as infrastructure, transportation, energy, applied research, environmental quality, government policies, taxation, rural development, mining legacy cleanup funds, and communications and public outreach strategies, the Cambensy press release stated.

The proposed committee would be made up of 15 members with governor-appointed representatives from various state mining operations, environmental nonprofits, Native American tribes and the International Steelworker’s Union along with a host of other public and private officials.

Cambensy was out front early in the effort to get the Empire Mine back up and running. This measure is, to some degree, an extension of that initial effort.

We hope it bears fruit.

— The Mining Journal (Marquette)