Wednesday February 26, 2020

Mesabi Daily News
Jerry Burnes

Before Kevin Boerst was hired as the leading expert on rock layers and mineral formation at the Iron Range’s newly-proposed billion dollar underground copper-nickel mine, he was working with the different layers of sandwiches at a local Subway.

Boerst is in rare company at Twin Metals. He’s been with the project for more than a decade, back before Twin Metals and its predecessor Duluth Metals even existed, at a time when PolyMet — the proposed surface-level copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes — was still in its infancy. PolyMet is currently on year 16 of its process to build a mine, to help put that in perspective.

From his days growing up in Wisconsin, Boerst was always interested in rocks, walking through the fields picking up the pretty ones. The sciences were always within his line of interest for the future, whether as biologist, forester and even an astronaut.

“The great thing about geology — I’m a very science-oriented person — and it’s the marriage of all the pure sciences: mathematics, physics, chemistry, a little biology if you get in fossils,” he said. “And then there’s just little titch of art in there. You have to have a little bit of imagination.”

The viability of the Duluth Complex to unearth minerals was never much in question, but the amount of copper, nickel, platinum, palladium and other minerals (PGMs) needed has been a game changer, Boerst said.

According to him, they’re the minerals that will be needed for the nation’s green economy hopes in the future, pointing to how they will help reduce carbon monoxide emissions as a catalytic converters in cars, scrubbers for power plants, wind turbines and solar panels.

In December, Twin Metals formally submitted plans to state and federal regulators to build its long-planned underground mine near Ely and the Boundary Waters. Boerst has worked on the project for more than a decade already and, realistically, could be waiting another decade or more for ground to be broken on construction.

Boerst, echoing the sentiment of his Twin Metals colleagues, said the submission of the mine plan of operation is sure sign they’re ready to move forward and believe they can without harm to the Boundary Waters and other watersheds.

“It’s been a really cool ride seeing the evolution of the project from the early days, how the company has changed,” he said. “Yeah, it’s been an interesting ride. And I think it’s really important to me personally to be part of this and that I can make sure that this is done correctly. It’s important to me because I live here. I’m raising my family here. I want it done right.”

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