Tag Archives: mining

The Nevada Battleground and Democrat Overconfidence

Reading so many articles every day, I am fascinated how often Democrats or mainstream media talk about Nevada as if it is a lock for Obama barring some huge upset.  No credible polling supports that thesis (PPP polls always over-represent Democrats) and plenty of polls reveal Romney is even leading.  But no matter the evidence, media still write headlines like “Nevada isn’t a sure bet for Obama?”  “Sure bet?” Is there a credible person out there arguing it IS a sure bet?  Regardless, the LA Times wrote that headline in an in-depth look at the Silver State:

For decades, casinos were the golden key to prosperity, luring in tourists, cranking out jobs around the clock and flooding the state treasury with a perpetual stream of cash. Those days are over…The local economy is in shambles, done in by the double whammy of the national recession and the rise of Indian casinos in California. Unemployment is rampant. That presents a serious challenge to President Obama as he tries to repeat his 2008 victory in Nevada, a key swing state then and now.

Battleground County

Washoe County, which includes Reno and neighboring Sparks, is the swing region of Nevada, and as such will play an outsized role in the presidential campaign between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. To the south, Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County is a Democratic and labor union stronghold. The rural counties that make up most of the rest of the state are overwhelmingly Republican. That leaves Washoe, where Republicans have a slight registration edge and once had a near lock on elections. That is no longer the case, as Obama proved in 2008 by winning the county with 55% of the vote, matching his percentage statewide. Washoe County “kind of holds the balance of power now,” said Dave Damore, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Basically, if a Republican loses Washoe County, they lose the state.” That isn’t as true of a Democrat, as Bill Clinton demonstrated when he lost Washoe twice while winning the state by thumping opponents in the southern part. But a Republican blowout in Washoe would spell doom for any Democrat in a statewide race.

There have been no independent polls to show how the region is trending, but it seems fair to say that the economy has created a tough environment for any incumbent. By multiple measures, Nevada has been the hardest-hit state in the nation, with an unemployment rate that peaked at 13.7% in 2010 and remained the nation’s highest at 11.6% in May. Nevada’s home foreclosure rate fell to No. 2 in the nation (behind Arizona) in March after 62 months in the top spot.

Permanent change in Reno

The Las Vegas area suffered the most, but Reno was not far behind. And economists and local officials say much of the damage to Reno-area tourism is probably permanent. Unlike Las Vegas, with its international reputation, Reno has always been more of a regional attraction, drawing tourists from Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. With the advent of large, full-service Indian casinos in Northern California, many of those tourists have no reason to visit anymore. Bill Eadington, an economics professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, said his studies showed that gambling revenues from tourists in Reno declined by two-thirds between 1990 and 2010.

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The Secret to Michigan’s Economic Revival

GOP prospects in Michigan are rarely very good due to large minority and strong union voting blocs. However, following Jennifer Granholm’s driving of the state into the ground, the bankruptcy of the auto companies and Mitt Romney’s family ties to the states, the GOP began re-evaluating its chances. The state, however, has polled stubbornly well in favor of the Democrats and the lapdog media regularly sites President Obama’s bailout of the auto companies (complete with one of the worst abrogations of justice in the country’s history) as well as the “success” of General Motors specifically for the improving climate in Michigan. Considering bailouts are still fairly unpopular and General Motor’s “success” since becoming publicly traded again makes the Facebook IPO look like a winner, something else must clearly be at play. Enter a revival of the mining industry in the state’s upper peninsula:

This remote area of Michigan, long ago left for dead, is rediscovering its mining roots — raising hopes here and across much of the Lake Superior region that a mining revival is in the making. With copper and other metals trading on commodities markets at consistently high prices, companies are digging into long-neglected deposits for metals that could be worth billions of dollars. Rio Tinto, the world’s largest mining company after BHP Billiton, is working on a $469 million mine that will produce nickel and copper. Hudbay Minerals, a public mining company, is leading an expected $225 million project to mine precious and heavy metals, including gold, silver, zinc and copper. Orvana has received approval to mine chalcocite, a mineral that is primarily copper, in a project here that the company says will create $2 billion in economic activity over 20 years. Smaller exploration firms are joining the rush too, searching for new ore deposits and studying known ones. One of them, Highland Resources of Vancouver, British Columbia, is spending $11.5 million to explore and develop potential mines, including two copper mines near Calumet, Mich.

Evidence of the new mining activity is already visible. East of here, in Marquette County, towns like Big Bay have seen an increase in construction and temporary workers renting hotel rooms and homes. In Marquette — the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, with 21,000 residents — the Border Grill restaurant owner Dan Torres estimates that the Rio Tinto mine is increasing monthly sales by $500 to $1,000. Rio Tinto will make its first tax payment this July and is expected to pay $4.3 million to local authorities.

Marquette County, in addition to the Rio Tinto mine, is buoyed by Northern Michigan University and two surviving iron ore mines, among other things, so it does not share the unemployment problems of Gogebic County. But other erstwhile mining counties are in even worse shape. In April, the unemployment rate in Ontonagon County was 13.9 percent, in Keweenaw 12.9 percent and in Baraga 16.3 percent. By comparison, the statewide rate was 8.3 percent.

Economic revival through private enterprise, not government sponsored bail-outs — that’s why Michigan is experiencing a change (however slight) to its financial fortunes. And Wisconsin’s loss is Michigan’s gain:

Just over the state line in Wisconsin, Gogebic Taconite dropped a proposed $1.5 billion, open-pit iron ore project after lawmakers failed to adopt a bill that critics say would have relaxed environmental regulations and limited public input in the permitting process. Gogebic Taconite is now drilling for iron in Michigan.