Everyone was pleasantly surprised this week by the announcement from Cliffs Natural Resources that they would re-open Northshore Mining in mid-May. The plant in Silver Bay has been in shutdown since December, causing the layoff of 540 employees. The good news came because the domestic steel market has picked up a little faster than many industry experts were predicting. Even the threat of curtailing sales of below cost steel from foreign producers seems to have perked up the market, along with a number of other factors.
The bottom line for the West End, though, is that many of our immediate friends and neighbors will be back to work full time – and that’s a relief.
I was a little distressed to hear that the Silver Bay city council banned the sale of Bent Paddle Beer in their municipal liquor store. The reason given was Bent Paddle’s membership in the Downstream Business Coalition, which is a group of about 80 regional businesses that support clean water and sustainable economic development. Full disclosure: I’m a member of the coalition, so I’m biased on this subject. However, I think the city council would reconsider if they could have a good conversation with the fine folks at Bent Paddle Brewery. The coalition is very supportive of iron mining and doesn’t even oppose sulfide mining. It is just opposed to the risk of water pollution that historically accompanies sulfide mining.
It’s all a bit of a tempest in a teapot, but I would like to point out that the only purchase that I made in the Silver Bay liquor store this year was a couple of cases of Bent Paddle Beer. I do think, no matter where people stand on the sulfide mining issue, that spirited discussion is healthy for our communities and people should not be threatened with business retaliation for their honestly held political opinions.
Mining news continued last week with a couple of serious setbacks for the proposed Twin Metals mining project near Ely. Governor Dayton wrote a public letter to the company expressing his grave concerns about sulfide mining directly upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Governor said he was unwilling to allow the risk of pollution in the wilderness, calling it “a crown jewel of Minnesota.”
Just a few days later, the Bureau of Land Management denied automatic renewal of two key federal mineral leases that have been held by Twin Metals for decades. These two developments, along with a depressed global metals market, may well spell the end for the Twin Metals project, at least for the foreseeable future. Time will only tell.
The 2016 Great Place Project is accepting applications until the end of March. The Great Place Project a collaborative effort of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s Moving Matters initiative. The Great Place Project is a friendly, local opportunity for funding of high impact, low cost ideas to create great places in our communities. Funding amounts range from $250 to $1,250 per selected project. This year, the Minnesota Power Foundation has joined as a major sponsor of the Great Place Project.
The theme for 2016 is “playability.” Projects that enhance or create a place that welcomes people with a playfulness or whimsy, especially for children, will be favored. You can find more details, examples and some really fun and well-produced videos by googling “Great Place Project – Cook County.”
It was a good week for animal viewing on the back roads. I saw a pine marten chasing a snowshoe hare down the road. The pine marten ducked into the woods as I drew near, but the exhausted rabbit could barely climb over the snow-bank. Moments later I passed a second marten that was closing in on the rabbit from the other direction. I have little doubt that the rabbit became lunch not too long after I passed.
The next day I saw three lynx on the road. The largest of the three cats stayed on the road, but kept glancing toward the woods, where I spotted two adolescent kittens. Once the kittens ran off, the adult followed, disappearing with two effortless leaps.
It’s always a thrill to see wildlife in the woods. It reminds me why we love living here in the West End.