The recent hearings on the PolyMet Mining project were a place for people to voice their opinions on the proposed copper-nickel mine, but they also became a place for politics. Mining is expected to play a big role in November’s election.
On Friday, November’s election became more of an open playing field after Congressman Rick Nolan, a democrat and avid supporter of mining, announced he won’t seek re-election.
While labor and industry have always been factors considered in local elections, political experts say with projects like PolyMet and Twin Metals in the picture, this year’s elections could focus more on mining than in years past.
"As drafter the PolyMet Permit to Mine doesn’t protect Minnesotans and should be rejected by the Minnesota DNR," Duluth City Councilor, Gary Anderson, said.
"I am in favor of this project moving forward. We have the strictest and most stringent environmental regulations of any state or country in the world," Rep. Rob Ecklund, (D) Minnesota, said.
The PolyMet Mining project has been a hot button issue, and most recently a platform for hopeful Congressional candidates, on both sides of the aisle, vying for votes in the 8th District.
"They know that I support the mining industry wholeheartedly. I just have my trepidations about this new type of mining that hasn’t been done in Minnesota before," 8th District Congressional seat Democratic candidate, Leah Phifer, said.
"It’s jobs, it’s the economy. I support mining, I support precious metals mining. We can do it safely. We know we can do it safely, and for a lot of years I’ve been behind PolyMet and the mines and the labor force," 8th District Congressional seat Republican candidate, Pete Stauber, St. Louis Co. Commissioner, said.
As current candidates continue to campaign for the 8th District seat, and new candidates consider adding their name to the list, political experts say their viewpoints on mining will play a factor in who people choose to vote for.
"It would take a candidate who is able to appeal to both the folks in Duluth, Cook County. I think it’s going to take what I call the old labor union candidate. The person that can appeal to the working person throughout the district," UMD political science professor, Cindy Rugeley, said.
While we wait to see if any new candidates decide to jump into the race for Congressman Nolan’s seat, citizens still have time to weigh in on the draft permits for PolyMet.
The DNR is accepting comments through March 6th, and the MPCA through March 16th.
You can catch Eye On Mining Tuesdays at 10 p.m., and Wednesday mornings on CBS 3.