Mining debate splits St. Louis County DFL

Iron Range newsWhile state politicos continue to pontificate over the Lt. Gov. job opening on Gov. Mark Dayton’s DFL ticket, a potentially signifiant political divide over mining continues to widen here in northern Minnesota.

John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports that the St. Louis County DFL Unit 3 board has voted in a resolution opposing new copper nickel mining in northern Minnesota. Beth Bily expands this coverage with an interesting story at BusinessNorth. This St. Louis County DFL unit covers some of the area affected by proposed mines, including Ely.

Now, this small local DFL board’s decision doesn’t mean much in the rolling saga of permitting for companies like PolyMet or Twin Metals. Nor does it represent any kind of public mandate one way or the other regarding the new mining. The neighboring Unit 5 DFL board (east central Mesabi Iron Range) is pro-mining, while the Duluth DFL has sided with mining skeptics.

But this story does mean that a critical mass of people in the Unit 3 “borderlands” of the St. Louis County DFL party structure have united against new sulfide or nonferrous mining. Many of the most progressive, passionate, issues-oriented people in the environmental movement are the ones who have dedicated years to DFL party organizing, and are the ones in office. Point is, this will create all kinds of rank-and-file trouble as precinct caucuses approach next month. Pros- and antis- will arrive at the caucuses next month to “fix the problem” (and thus create new ones).

Meantime, a pro-development group announced it will send seven buses of PolyMet supporters to the EIS hearings in Duluth Thursday night. I am certain that project opponents will also send significant numbers.

All of this is bubbling up to an 8th District DFL convention this spring that should be a simple rah-rah over the party’s incumbent Congressmen Rick Nolan, but will probably be an embarrassing, ugly fight over mining.

My view continues to be that this debate, as framed, does nothing for northern Minnesota. It neither stops the new mining projects, gets them closer to fruition, nor offers viable alternatives. Hope, if it comes, will come from creative action within the communities of northern Minnesota. Hope will come when we stop waiting, and start acting on what we can control — namely, the quality of life in our communities.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.