We find it sad and more than a little irritating to watch and listen to former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson emerge as a battering ram against the PolyMet copper-nickel mine in our hometown of Hoyt Lakes on the eastern part of the Iron Range.
The PolyMet team navigated a daunting, 14-year federal- and state-approval process before getting its final required permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May. Carlson’s one-man campaign now comes off as a puzzling attempt to regain his relevancy and an effort to play off his former title to attract far more attention than he deserves.
His latest foray was an appearance or two on Monday in Duluth. He’s of course entitled to express himself as a citizen — but so are we, former mayors and the serving mayor of Hoyt Lakes, a mining town without a mine. Our community and the entire state stands to gain from PolyMet’s $1 billion project and its 360 well-paying mining jobs. And we stand to lose if Carlson has his way.
Which is why we’re asking, “Where were you, Arne, when this project was being scrutinized during the environmental-review process among sincere, well-informed, and passionate stakeholders on both sides?” That was the proper forum to air concerns.
And why no similar activism on behalf of the 1,400 men and women who lost their jobs in 2000 and 2001 when LTV Steel shuttered the taconite plant on the very site where PolyMet will become an active mine in the heart of a mining district?
Two years after Carlson left office, those jobs and our community’s largest taxpayer disappeared. Since then we’ve lost a generation of our kids. The 60 seniors in the 2019 graduating class from Mesabi East High School weren’t even born yet when Carlson retired. As Carlson became a taxpayer in Florida, we were left to hang on through long, dark years before the ray of hope that is PolyMet appeared on the horizon. And for the past 14 years we have asked people to stay resilient and to hang on a little longer while the independent, very public, scientific environmental review and permitting process for this new modern mine played out.
We don't know where Carlson was all that time except we know for sure he wasn’t working with us on the Iron Range to promote our economy. And when the cold winds blow, we know he heads back to Punta Gorda, Fla., to escape our Minnesota winters. Fortunately for us, his successors, Govs. Mark Dayton and Tim Walz, have taken a more measured approach, honoring the painstaking environmental-review process.
We want the whole state to prosper, not just the Twin Cities metropolitan area. That’s a sore point for us because as proud as we are of our hometown, it’s never fully recovered since LTV’s heartbreaking pullout. We need the infusion of jobs, tax base, and life-sustaining people energy that the PolyMet mine will bring. We celebrate, along with our community, every single job already created and applaud each new job posting.
Mayors never retire; we are still here working hard every day to support this region.
Chris Vreeland is mayor of Hoyt Lakes. Marlene Pospeck served as Hoyt Lakes mayor from 1997-2012. And Mark Skelton served as Hoyt Lakes mayor from 2012-2018. They wrote this for the News Tribune.