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Big Trouble in Big Stone County: Strata Wants To Turn Some of Earth’s Oldest Rocks into Concrete

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the efforts of a big mining corporation named Strata to bulldoze its way past local opposition in Minnesota’s Big Stone Country, just as a bill designed to gut local control was making its way through the Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature. While that bill, HF 389, did manage to pass the House, it stalled out in the Senate and may (may!) be dead for what’s left of this legislative session. That’s good news for Minnesota as a whole, but while the HF 389 threat is (likely) gone, the problem with Strata still remains.

To recap: Big Stone County, Minnesota, has lots of Big Stones of granite and gneiss that are among the oldest rocks on the planet, in some cases dating back to the Early Archean Period — that’s 3.6 billion years ago, folks. (You can see some of these stones in the picture above, taken by James Robins.) These gigantic stones, the very ones Strata wants to blow up for concrete, are a prime scenic and tourist attraction, providing lots of jobs and millions of dollars each year for the Western Boundary Waters area as well as the county’s very name. By contrast, Strata’s planned project will only create 5 to 6 jobs at most and maybe $20,000 in tax revenue per year while costing a lot in wear and tear. What’s worse, the proposed mining site will be located near several homes, a bike trail, and a particularly beautiful part of the Minnesota River.

The tourism and slow food movement is growing out in the Upper Minnesota River Valley, and the corridor is extremely likely to be named a National Blueway outdoor recreation and natural area by US Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar within the next two weeks. It’s already one of Minnesota’s two America’s Great Outdoors Areas as designated by the DOI.

There’s a public hearing on the project on April 17, at 7 p.m., in Ortonville. If you’re a Minnesotan or know any Minnesotans you think would be interested in this, please spread the word as much as possible to show the county commissioners that people from across Minnesota care about their community. If you can’t attend, you can still submit your thoughts on this project by following the instructions laid out here.

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