Emily Mining Group Providing Information on Proposed Manganese Mine in Cass County

Emily Mine Information Group meets

By Joan Hasskamp – Crosby-Ironton Courier

Approximately 30 people attended the Emily Mine Information Group’s listening session and letter-writing event on Monday, Oct. 16 at the Outing Crooked Lake Township Townhall. 

Dan Brennan, one of the group’s founders, explained a primary purpose of the group is to gather and share information regarding the manganese mining situation. The group was formed because he and several others felt the information released at city council meetings and elsewhere was exclusively provided by those with vested interests in the mining of the site. The group was established to collect and disseminate information that is fair and accurate to the community. He urged community members to take the presented information and draw their own conclusions from it. He read the group’s mission statement and emphasized that, with everything at stake, their goal is to make as much as much information available to the public as possible.

Anna Battistini provided an update on North Star Manganese (NSM) and its request for leases, including mineral rights, on 800 acres of land in Emily. Battistini and her family hold a 1/5 undivided interest in 80 of the acres. She indicated her family is not interested in selling their mineral rights to NSM. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been negotiating with NSM over these leases for nearly three years. The next step would be for the DNR to make a recommendation on these leases to the State Executive Council. 

The State Executive Council comprises the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and attorney general. This group can approve or reject the recommendation. The next meeting of the State Executive Council is scheduled for Nov. 29. The meeting agenda isn’t published until the week of the meeting, so it is currently unknown if the DNR will be presenting at the meeting. The group will update members as more information becomes available. 

Battistini, Brennan and several others in attendance encouraged each person to send a handwritten letter to the State Executive Council to provide their input on leases, exploratory drilling, and other aspects of the mining project. Battistini added mining would have a profound effect on the area, with the possibility of a shift from a recreational economy to an industrial one. This shift is due to mining laws which were primarily written by mining companies in the late 1800s. The need for Minnesota to update their mining laws to protect the water and local recreational economy was discussed.

Brennan explained the meeting was not intended to provide a preordained vision. The goal is not to tell anyone what to do or think; instead, to provide information that will be helpful for each person to form their own ideas and opinions and to take action as they see fit.  

The featured speaker was Jeff Forester, Executive Director of Minnesota Lakes & Rivers, a registered lobbyist. His group works to protect Minnesota’s water and he provided an update on the current water quality in the state. He believes we are at a turning point. In 2018, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported  40% of surface waters were impaired. By 2020, this number had risen to 56%. 

In his position, Forester regularly attends lake association meetings. With over 100,000 members, it’s the largest civic organization in the state. Despite the large numbers, members haven’t united into a single advocacy voice. He stated numbers matter and encouraged people to join this group and make their voices heard. He touched on the significance of heritage concerning family cabins and homes. While he wouldn’t mind if his children sold the family home in the Twin Cities after his death, he jokingly said he would come back to haunt them if they ever sold the family lake home in northern Minnesota. Using his own family as an example, he wanted to illustrate how important lakeshore property is to generations of families. He stated 88% of residents living on lakes and rivers want to pass the property along to their children. 

Forester spoke of the important role water plays in Minnesota. The state is one of only two places in the world where three continental watersheds meet. Additionally, it is the headwaters of the Mississippi River. He said we are the water source for the eastern half of the United States, which makes it crucial that we learn how to extract minerals without damaging our water. 

Several of those in attendance expressed concern about how mining would impact their water quality. Forester said if water quality declines, then everything is affected, including property values. He couldn’t think of a city or town in Minnesota that isn’t located on a lake or river, emphasizing that water connects us all.

One of the challenges he sees is balancing the needs as we transition away from carbon with the need for water. Since minerals are essential, a solution must be found. 

Compared to iron ore, Forester said manganese poses a greater risk because manganese contains sulfide. Since the Emily deposits are among the richest in the world, it’s imperative to find a way to balance mining with water preservation. Several people in attendance raised concerns about their own water quality and encouraged others to have their water tested by an independent company.

Forester stressed the importance of having local voices on important issues, such as water and encouraged people to write handwritten letters to legislators since they receive so few of them. He said enacting change through a regulatory agency such as the DNR can be challenging, but it is possible at the legislative level because politicians require local support and need to be responsive to their constituents. Additionally, he highlighted organizing a base over time helps build political capital. 

Brennan concluded the meeting by emphasizing the importance of engaging in discussions and working together as a united community. He expressed they are the guardians of their area and must face the ongoing challenges. Brennan encouraged the expansion of the group, welcoming diverse perspectives and fostering open communication to enhance the well-being of all community members.

Those in attendance were encouraged to stay informed about upcoming events and information by visiting the group’s Facebook page (facebook.com/EmilyMineInformationGroup.)