Superior, Wisc. (Sept. 19, 2013) — Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships offer students and faculty a chance to explore educational opportunities that they might not normally have a chance to do during a busy academic year.
Aleksei Bogdanov, a senior with a double major in transportation and logistics and economics at UW-Superior dove into summer research regarding mining in Wisconsin. The international student was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and was assisted with that work by Zamira Simkins in the business and economics department.
Aleksei wrote a research paper on mining in Wisconsin for a legal studies class during the school year and that propelled him to get into the summer scholarship program. He said about his summer project, “I had a lot of fun actually. I managed to travel to Ashland and Bayfield counties and talked to people and obtained some additional information and they emailed me and sent me links.” He said he came to UW-Superior because of the transportation and logistics program and loved the area for its rich shipping history and tradition. He hopes to work in that industry when his academic work is complete.
Simkins had high praise for her student this summer. “I think he did a tremendous job and did it all by himself this summer and that was a lot of work. It takes communication skills and dedication to do that.”
Dr. Zamira Simkins, an Assistant Professor of Economics Education at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, earned a Doctorate degree in economics in 2008 from American University. Fields of interest include macroeconomics, political economy, development economics, comparative economic systems, international economics.
A native speaker of Kyrgyz, who is fluent in English and Russian, and a basic speaker of French and Turkish, Simkins teaches at the college level and working with organizations that include the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The study assesses the impacts of Gogebic Taconite Iron Ore Mine on the economy of Northern Wisconsin.
A GTAC company proposed to develop an iron ore mine along the Penokee Range in Ashland and Iron counties in northwestern Wisconsin. The proposal sparked heated debates over the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts of the mine. The company hired consultants to conduct economic and environmental impact studies of the mine, which will be reviewed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources before a mining permit can be issued. Local residents and organizations continue to be apprehensive, however, and actively voice their individual concerns. Yet, no formal public opinion studies have been conducted. The primary objective of this survey was to discover and provide unbiased information about public views on the mine.
The survey was designed and carried out by an independent team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, including Dr. Zamira Simkins, an Assistant Professor of Economics, and Aleksei Bogdanov, an undergraduate student. The survey consisted of twenty questions, five of which were mandatory, multi-part, target research questions; while the remaining questions primarily collected demographic data.
The same 20 questions were given to two study groups: (1) a self-selected group of people who completed an open-to-the-public online survey, and (2) a random sample of households from Ashland and Iron counties in Wisconsin. The purpose of creating and surveying a random sample of households was to control for the selection error of the self-reported group and to collect as unbiased results as possible.
Between July 16, 2013 and August 19, 2013, a total of 893 self-reported surveys were initiated, out of which 862 contained responses to all mandatory questions. In the random sample, a total of 200 households were contacted over the phone and 102 provided responses to all mandatory questions. A summary of results for each group of respondents and questions pertaining to the mine is presented below.
• Respondents in both samples report that they are fairly knowledgeable about the mine: mean score of 7/10 and 7.7/10 in random and self-reported sample respectively.
• Most respondents are against the mine. According to the relatively unbiased, random sample results, 44.12% of the sample respondents “absolutely oppose” it and 17.65% “generally oppose it.”
• According to the random sample results, most respondents believe that the mine will have a “mostly negative” impact on the region’s transportation infrastructure and “only negative” impacts on the environment in general and more specifically on outdoor recreation, air quality, soil quality, surface and underground water quality, forestry and wetlands, and fish and wildlife. • According to the random sample results, most respondents believe that the mine will have a “somewhat positive” impact on the local economy, businesses, and employment opportunities.
• When asked if they would be interested in working at the mine, 66.34% of the random sample respondents reported that they are “absolutely not” interested in working there.
• Distribution of survey respondents by industry suggests that there are very few mining workers residing in the region. This poses a question of whether the local labor supply can meet the mine’s potential demand for labor, or whether workers would need to be hired from outside the region.