Marketable products from industrial waste materials... Restoring harvested peatlands to their nutrient-rich, soggy glory… Studying the effects of non-native earthworms on hardwood forests...

These are just a few of the wide variety of projects that helps NRRI meet its mission of fostering economic development of Minnesota’s natural resources in an environmentally sound manner to promote private sector employment.

Back in the early 1980s, Minnesota’s economy—largely dependent on natural resources—was taking a beating. The state was reeling from a domestic steel crisis that left about 13,000 workers unemployed on the Iron Range, and global competition was threatening the state’s logging, pulp, and paper industries. To counteract the blow—and avoid a similar occurrence in the future— a group of researchers, legislators, and community members envisioned building a center that would study the economic impact and sustainability of Minnesota’s minerals, forest products, peat, biomass, and water-related industries.

This vision became a reality. In 1985, the Natural Resources Research Institute opened its doors in an abandoned Air Force building. The 20-foot ceilings and cavernous concrete spaces were filled with science laboratories and industrial-sized equipment.

Over the past 20-plus years, NRRI has earned the respect of industry leaders, the academic community, and environmental watchdogs. Its reach is felt throughout the state and beyond.

NRRI operates a minerals research laboratory in Coleraine on Minnesota’s Iron Range providing research for mining industries, a diatoms research lab in Ely, Minn., that focuses on water quality issues, and a Fens Research Facility in Zim, Minn., to study peatland restoration.

Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar said of NRRI: “Our state has an abundance of natural resources, and it is our responsibility to protect the environment for future generations, as well as to create new economic opportunities. Through its research, NRRI has been an active participant in revitalizing both areas. It’s truly one of Minnesota’s gems.”


Rolf Weberg, Executive Director