Mining research is important for Minnesota

The University of Minnesota’s biennial budget request for 2016-17 includes a $6.25 million provision for mining research.

The “mining solutions” initiative is part of the University’s economic and community development plan. Funding would develop ways to harness mining waste products, make mining research and information more accessible, and address the harmful health and environmental effects of mining.

The proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota has been a particular point of contention in the races for governor and senator.

Gov. Mark Dayton has withheld any comments about supporting or opposing the new mine until an environmental review of the project is completed. Republican challenger Jeff Johnson has said the delay is too long and declared in a debate, “I will do everything I can to get that mine open.”

In the Senate race, Democratic incumbent Al Franken and his Republican opponent, Mike McFadden, have taken positions consistent with their parties, although Franken has said he supports mining.

The $6.25 million the University has requested for this initiative is consistent with the amounts for its other research projects and initiatives. And given the economic importance of mining for Minnesota — plus the health and environmental concerns it causes — this proposed research will be valuable not just for academic purposes, but for the whole state.

We would like to see the “mining solutions” funding approved, and we hope University researchers will use it to gain new information for all stakeholders in the mining debate.