LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ed McBroom this week hosted an economic development and land-based industries roundtable on the campus of Michigan Technological University.
“There is a tremendous opportunity on the horizon for the Upper Peninsula, especially in the current economic climate given the increasing need for materials and the push for new technologies,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, who chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee. “Our traditional land-based industries, like U.P. mining, are ripe to partner with the technology industry and help Michigan be a part of new technologies from the raw materials to finished products.”
McBroom was joined for the two-day event on Monday and Tuesday by State Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, who chairs the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee; State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, who chairs the Senate Transportation, K-12 and Department of Education appropriations subcommittees; State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, and State Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock.
Roundtable participants heard from individuals and organizations across the U.P., ranging from mining companies, timber organizations, economic and development authorities, battery manufacturing and recycling specialists, university and research personnel, and transportation/rail professionals.
“As the world demand for critical minerals increases, we have the opportunity to collaborate here in Michigan and throughout the Midwest to develop new technologies in mining that will lead to a stronger domestic mineral supply chain,” said Matt Johnson, external affairs manager for Eagle Mine. “The roundtable provided the opportunity to highlight public-private partnerships for more sustainable battery metal supplies here in Michigan.”
The roundtable discussion also highlighted the global push happening to increase production of electric vehicles, resulting in an exponential need for mined metals — demonstrating the need for land-based industries — more than ever to make this transition happen.
“The Upper Peninsula is home to some brilliant minds, especially in the Copper Country where Michigan Tech is leading the charge in new research and development in the timber and mining industries,” Markkanen said. “We all must work together to find the best ways to utilize the U.P.’s abundant natural resources in a smart, efficient, and sustainable manner to maximize the benefits. The U.P. can be a vital part of emerging technology used across the globe.”
Participants said it is important that policymakers look at ways to incentivize mining companies to do more research on ore bodies and create partnerships with research universities to explore new ways to process ore that are more efficient and sustainable.
Toward this goal, Upper Peninsula legislators introduced a mining bill package this summer to help match back a portion of state taxes paid by land-based industries directly to Michigan universities in order to incentivize the continual research and development of best practices.
“The committee on Michigan’s Mining Future draft report has really helped highlight just how important it is to link our industry leaders with our university researchers in order to drive the next generation of technology and opportunities in Michigan,” Cambensy said. “Our proposed incentive is only the tip of the iceberg in ways that the state can help grow the public-private partnerships needed for the 21st century. Today’s round table emphasized that the protection and reuse of waste materials are just as important to focus on as the products leaving the U.P.”
“Legislators were encouraged about the tremendous possibility for partnership and innovation following the roundtable’s discussions,” McBroom said. “We would like to thank Michigan Tech for hosting this event and look forward to further conversations on these issues.”