Duluth City Council rejects anti-mining measure

No one blinks anymore when activist city councils pass kooky or feel-good resolutions on the politically correct issue du jour. Potholes, garbage collection and other consequential, but mundane issues should hardly distract local pols from what really matters.

So Richmond, California, councilors pass a resolution to ban the threat of space-based weapons. And Minneapolis and St. Paul join Seattle as the only cities supporting “indigenous opponents” of the Dakota Access Pipeline, citing the Battle of the Greasy Grass and Custer’s Last Stand in the process.citycow

But a funny thing happened this week when a trifecta of Duluth City Councilors tried to pass an anti-mining resolution on the Poly-Met project on the Iron Range. Their effort to further bog down the proposed copper-nickel-precious metals mine near Hoyt Lakes with a symbolic, non-binding resolution calling for more hearings and bureaucracy got shot down.

Dozens of residents on both sides of the issue turned out for a meeting that became something of a referendum on the proper role of government and economic growth in the media.

Lynn Clark Pegg praised the council for taking up the issue and asserted: “This is a city issue… because we are downstream from this mine.

David Ross, president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, characterized the resolution as “a last-minute effort to block” the project and told councilors: “It is disappointing to witness council members overstepping your authority to forward an action that is outside of your jurisdiction.”

Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, agreed, saying: “It is not the role of the Duluth City Council to tell the state agencies how to do their work.”

At Large Councilor Barb Russ took a similar position.

“I strongly believe it is not the role of the city to even vote on this,” she said, calling the resolution “kind of meaningless.”

Many of the emotionally charged letters and emails the city received on the subject echoed the same themes–a plea for a balanced approach between environmental protection and economic growth.

“With the recent Enbridge projects that have been cancelled or delayed, our area has already lost over 4.5 billion dollars in construction projects.  We have to understand that this region cannot sustain the current workforce if the trend of delaying, blocking, and politicizing projects continues,” Dean Crotteau said in an email to city councilors.

“I have lived here my whole life, my dad raised 6 kids and a wife based on mining, he sailed on the ore boats his whole career. So, yes I am pro mining, And Stay Out Of this Process,” wrote Mike Garramone.

“I see firsthand the decline in standards of living and economic opportunity of those affected by mining downturns through my work in our region…Should you be part of enabling the voices of a few to affect the lives and the futures of so many?” emailed Scott Bradt, president of Wells Fargo Bank’s Northern MN Business Banking unit.

The differences between environmentalists and union members on mining and regulatory policy could hold implications for November.

“This is for our future generations. Although there are people looking for “good” paying jobs, it’s about time they “retool” and find other sources of revenue,” Brenda Doup said in an email.

“Many well‐paying jobs will be created with the PolyMet project that is proposed for the Iron Range. Jobs that can and will bring relief to an area of Northern Minnesota that is currently on a downhill trend as far as job growth and availability,” emailed Brent Albiston, assistant business manager for IBEW Local 31.

“The DFL Environmental Caucus, on behalf of our members in Duluth and statewide, supports the resolution requesting an evidence-based hearing before a decision is made on permits for PolyMet,” Veda Kanitz, chair of the DFL environmental caucus wrote in an email.logo

Stay tuned for an American Experiment report soon to be released on the impact of Minnesota’s regulatory policies on mining and economic development.