Huge crowd packs PolyMet EIS hearing in Duluth

Iron Range newsAlmost 1,500 people packed into the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center last night for the first of three public hearings about the PolyMet Environmental Impact Statement. The purpose of the PolyMet EIS hearing was to allow feedback on the document released late last year, which details the possible environmental impact of the controversial new copper/nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.

I did not cover the PolyMet EIS hearing, but most state media did. MPR News had full coverage, as did the Duluth News Tribune and Star Tribune.

The Ely Echo provided live coverage on Twitter:

The Mesabi Daily News also covered the PolyMet EIS hearing, publishing a front page story by Bill Hanna today entitled “Strong PolyMet Support.” In this story there is only scant mention of the existence of opposition to the project, and that opposition is only referred to near the end of the story using out-of-context comments picked from the proceedings. The first six graphs are about the heroic hordes of Iron Range supporters who stormed the hall. This is what most locals will read about what happened last night.

Interestingly, Marshall Helmberger, editor of the Timberjay in Ely, Tower and Cook, who also covered the event, said on KAXE this morning that there were probably slightly more supporters than opponents there, but it was close. He also said more opponents spoke than supporters.

Naturally, the reporters from all the larger newspapers and media outlets also observed that there were, in fact, two sides to this story.

I didn’t go because I viewed this as a perfunctory part of the process, not one that will influence the actual outcome of permitting. 1,500 people dedicated nearly an entire day’s work just to attend this hearing, most of whom said nothing or said the same things that have already been said (Granted, I understand there were some good points raised last night). But all this energy poured into a process out of our control, while our communities drag sadly along … I have to say, it’s frustrating.

Eliminate blight, make art, play music, help a kid, spend a buck at a local business. Do this, and the economy will follow. This is how you build a better Range. And the state or feds have nothing to do with it.


  1. I listened to the reports on MPR this morning. They claimed that, based on stickers and the way people dressed, some assessed that there were more FORs then AGAINSTs, but that more AGAINSTs spoke. One of the short interviews presented in one report had a man from the east end of the Range speaking about how he had lost his job when LTV closed, but oh well, when we get this new mine open, we’ll have “jobs for generations of our children.” Then a few moments later, the reporter was talking of the details of the proposals, and stated that the proposed mine would run for “Twenty years.” Hardly generations. The other Pro people interviewed, mostly politicians. spoke of trusting the system. Hardly a ringing endorsement, given what has happened elsewhere. And of course, they spoke of jobs. There would be jobs monitoring the water for hundreds of years, but that wasn’t brought up in the interviews. I’ve heard very little discussion of the actual need for the ore or the possibility that the price could go down or up.

    If I could question both the company proponents as well as the crowd, the one question I would ask the crowd is, “Would you be in favor of this mine if all the “miners” were robots and there were very few jobs created?” I think that might cut to the chase: how much would this mine really benefit the area?

    It seems to me that it is really hard to get a straight unbiased assessment of the actual mining and potential environmental impact or protections divorced from the “creation of jobs” issue.

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