Economic Impacts

If sulfide mines are permitted in Minnesota, some jobs will be created. It is unclear how many jobs this would be, for how long, for whom, and at what cost.

It is important to closely examine job predictions and outcomes, economic responses to mining, and potential impacts to other economic sectors.

Potential effects on other industries

The tourism industry generates $1.6 billion in northeastern Minnesota. The proposed new sulfide mines are closer to key tourism centers than existing iron mines and could impact the lakes and rivers that draw people to the region.

Significant changes to the landscape could also impact attraction and retention of employees to the area’s expanding medical services, construction, government, and finance industries.

Importing workers

While opening a mine results in new jobs, sometimes those jobs are not filled by people from communities near the mine.

For example, PolyMet predicts that 55 percent of the jobs for its proposed mine would be “non-local,” and filled by individuals relocating to the area. Twenty percent would be commuters from cities such as Duluth. Only 25 percent would be local hires.

Unreliable job predictions

Shrinking job predictions at Minnesota’s sulfide mine proposals

Mine proposals often start out with extremely high job predictions, only to have these whittled down as the design is developed. Timeline »

Studies show that mining companies frequently over-estimate the jobs that will result from their mines. For example, Twin Metals and PolyMet have already scaled back their estimations of the number of jobs that will be created. (See “Timeline” sidebar.)

But these early projections can significantly influence initial public and policy-maker decisions about whether the operations are a good deal for the state.

Unstable employment

Because of the rapidly fluctuating global metals market, the technical nature of modern mining, and other factors, sulfide mining today often creates rapid ups-and-downs in local economies. More…