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Poll shows controversial mine favored in region

November 30, 2016 GMT

VIRGINIA — Twin Metals has the support of nearly two-thirds of the people recently surveyed in a new public opinion poll about proposed copper-nickel operations on the Iron Range.

Four hundred northeastern Minnesota residents were polled from Nov. 12-14, with 65 percent saying they strongly or somewhat support new copper-nickel mines in the region. About 26 percent strongly opposed and 9 percent registered as undecided.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in Alexandria, Va., reported a 5 percent margin of error, and was paid for by Twin Metals Minnesota.

“Environmentally responsible mining” in the region was supported by 82 percent of respondents and opposed by 12 percent, while 61 percent backed the proposed Twin Metals project near Ely against 27 percent opposition.

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“Support for the mining economy and for the development of copper-nickel mining projects is overwhelming across Northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range,” said Bob McFarlin, Twin Metals spokesman, in a statement releasing the poll results. “This extraordinary support reflects a strong belief that copper-nickel mining can help revitalize the region’s economy, protect the environment and create jobs for generations of Minnesotans.”

The poll comes at a critical time for Twin Metals. It’s copper-nickel project is the subject of intense scrutiny by environmental groups, while the U.S. Forest Service and federal Bureau of Land Management is considering not renewing the company’s leases over concerns it could impact the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed.

A decision is expected soon and Twin Metals has maintained the leases are critically important to the entire project, so much so that the government’s decision could upend the entire mine’s future.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has spoken out against the project and denied Twin Metals exploratory access to state land on the project. But the governor has pushed ahead on the review process for PolyMet.

PolyMet has undergone about a decade of environmental review on its copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, and could start construction by 2018 if state and federal permits are approved.

Renewing the leases was strongly favored in the Twin Metals polls, with 81 percent supporting the project going to an official environmental review, while 18 percent supported denying the leases.