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In response: Tone it down? Without mining, we have no future

Tom Rukavina

I saw someone didn't like my comment in a New York Times Magazine article, when I stated that, "I don't want to be anybody's Sherpa." A letter in response to my comment was published Oct. 22 by the News Tribune (Reader's View: "Tone it down on mining debate").

I'd urge a full reading of the magazine article and comparing what I said to the snarky, untrue statements made in the same magazine article by environmental activists Becky Rom and Reid Carron, who were praised for their "apology" in the Oct. 22 letter.

I don't want to be a Sherpa because Sherpas risk their lives every day so rich folks can enjoy themselves playing in the Sherpa's backyard. Sound familiar? Your average Sherpa makes little money and has no social security, no health insurance, no pension, and no safety protections. They carry the load for the wealthy who then fly back to New York, London, or maybe even Minneapolis and share their adventures over drinks at the country club.

My father, grandfather, and their friends helped organize the unions on the Iron Range. They and their successors fought for more than 100 years for the above-mentioned rights and protections. We should value the good jobs and colorful history of our mining culture here in Northeastern Minnesota — something that certainly was not done by Rom and Carron in the New York Times Magazine article.

In fact, I'd be glad to compare my public record of defending our working class and unions against big-city lawyer Carron any day of the week.

The letter's condescending statement urging "Rangers on both sides of the mining debate (to) tone it down" reeked with hypocrisy. The letter could have urged Duluth-area folks to do the same. One only needs to read a few of the recent letters to the editor in the News Tribune regarding the copper-nickel mining debate.

For instance, perhaps the Sept. 11 letter, "PolyMet needs evidentiary hearing," wasn't intended to imply that we grandparents who support mining aren't good grandparents. But it did.

And perhaps the Sept. 5 letter, "Duluthians too smart to fall for copper mining," wasn't meant to suggest that those of us who support mining are stupid. But it did.

Maybe it's finally time, after all the insults (and I'll admit to a few myself), for all of us to work together to make sure we can continue to mine in Northeastern Minnesota in ways that protect both our way of life and our environment.

Because without mining, we have no financial future — in Duluth or on the Iron Range.

Tom Rukavina of Virginia is an elected commissioner on the St. Louis County Board.