Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk left no doubt about his support when he suddenly pulled out a bright-blue “Go PolyMet” baseball cap and stretched it over the top of his head Wednesday during the wrap-up breakfast for the two-day, 21st annual Duluth and St. Louis County at the Capitol, a citizens-lobbying event.

The gesture won a rousing round of applause from the nearly 200 Northlanders and others in attendance inside the Intercontinental St. Paul Riverfront hotel. There wasn’t a single boo or jeer - which was quite unlike the mixed reaction Bakk received when spoke favorably for PolyMet and copper-nickel mining last month during a public hearing in Duluth.

The DFLer from Cook thanked and commended all those working to “create a whole new economic sector for Northeastern Minnesota’s economy with Twin Metals and PolyMet and the rigorous process we have gone through.” That process, specifically for the PolyMet mining project, has included 10 years of environmental review and ordered changes to ensure the project won’t cause environmental harm.

“I have grandchildren who swim in the lakes and in the watershed,” said Bakk, one of the breakfast’s featured speakers. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our region, and I often tell people no one cares more about the water and the soil (and the environment in Northeastern Minnesota than Northeastern Minnesotans).

“PolyMet is the perfect project, a very small project to see if we can figure out, from a brownfield site and with an existing tailings basin, figure out if we can do this. And if we can, this is going to be a big deal for this state, a really big deal for generations to come.”

Bakk acknowledged the fierce and impassioned opposition to PolyMet and copper-nickel mining here, which would be a new industry in Minnesota and one with a troubled past.

“We’re just never going to be able to convince (the fiercest opponents),” Bakk said. “To all of you who are a little skeptical yet, let me just remind you, anything in life worth doing has got some kind of risk. There’s always going to be some level of risk. (But we can) manage those things as best as we can.”

Only after stepping away from the microphone did Bakk remove his cap - but certainly not his support.

Chuck Frederick, Editorial Page Editor