Copper mining exposes DFL rift
DULUTH — Just when it seemed 1,200 DFL delegates might roll in and out of Duluth this weekend without disagreeing on much of anything, along comes an issue controversial enough to upset even this year’s love fest of a state party convention.
A resolution on the list of proposed changes in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor platform has some environmentalists in the party up in arms. The resolution was supposed to strike a delicate balance between DFLers who support mining, especially starting a new copper mining industry in northern Minnesota, and those who say the danger of copper mining to the environment may be too high.
But Duluth’s Richard Edwards, 7th Senate District DFL party chairman and a delegate to the convention, said the wording goes too far in endorsing potential copper mining in northeastern Minnesota, such as the proposed PolyMet mine near Hoyt Lakes.
The proposed resolution states that the DFL party “Support the creation of jobs through responsible mining in Minnesota. All kinds of mining are different and require specific safeguards. Each kind of mining must meet strong environmental standards including state and federal environmental agency approval, high safety and labor standards for miners, and use of new and proven technology to prevent environmental damage.”
Out of 72 proposed platform changes, the mining resolution is second highest on the list, behind only support for a single payer healthcare system.
Edwards and others contend the copper mining issue remains unresolved in the regulatory process and that there is no clear consensus within the DFL party. He says the resolution being proposed for convention approval lacks key points, such as resolving that any mine be represented by union labor. He said the wording also lacks any recognition that a large number of DFLers stand opposed to the new kind of mining in Minnesota.
“It doesn’t define what ‘responsible’ is. What is responsible mining?’’ Edwards asked.
The resolution could end up dropped, amended or approved, but is likely to spur some sort of floor fight at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Several of the delegates criticizing the resolution are active in environmental groups that are the most critical of copper mining.
“I think the priority for this convention should be coming out with party unity, and having this resolution in there is not going to accomplish that,’’ Edwards said.