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DFL keeps divisive mining plank out of party platform

Rep. Carly Melin speaking to a group of delegates

ROCHESTER — The DFL convention’s most controversial moment came Saturday during debate over an obscurely worded mining provision in the party’s proposed 91-point platform.

The proposed provision, which ultimately failed, would have supported strict controls on mining companies in Northeast Minnesota that want to extract copper and nickel from the mineral-rich area.

The issue provides no better example of the political rift between many labor-friendly Iron Rangers and metro-area environmentalists.

Rep. Carly Melin, who represents the Iron Range, and other delegates tried to kill the platform proposal even before it was up for a convention-wide vote.

“We just wanted to send a very clear message that the DFL has always supported mining,” the Hibbing DFLer said in an interview.

Ranger delegates offered a stark warning: If the provision, known as “sulfide mining” to some, made it into the platform, it would be election fodder for Republicans in the 8th Congressional District and could disrupt DFL efforts to unseat incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack. 

“Now is not the time to be causing problems within our party, within the DFL,” Melin told a group of delegates during an impromptu meeting off the convention floor. “I am terrified that if this gets in the DFL platform, it is going to become a wedge issue. Chip Cravaack and every other Republican out there are going to go out and say that the DFL doesn’t support mining, and we can’t have that right now.”

“It’ll be the whole race. It’ll be the whole race, I guarantee it,” added another Iron Ranger, Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm.

Melin urged convention delegates to reject the provision, and her arguments ultimately proved successful.

But there was lively debate in support of the measure on the floor, as well.

“We support mining. We want to see it done responsibly with public dialogue,” said Anna Cook, a Duluth resident.

“I’m here fighting for the life of my family and my lands,” she said. “No one has paid me to be here today. I am not an expert. I am a citizen who believes with all my heart that we have the right to engage in meaningful dialogue.”

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said before the vote that he was waiting to stand behind the final outcome.

“Obviously, the Republicans are going to try to spin it either way,” he said. “The fact that we even had the debate, they’ll try to say we’re anti-mining, but there’s a lot of pro-mining DFLers and there are a lot of folks who are pro-environment in this party, and we celebrate them all.”

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Nate Arthur on 06/04/2012 - 11:12 am.


    Sad to me that to compete for votes, DFL candidates have look more Republican on this issue. I hope there is a way to operate these mines with environmental concerns addressed: acid runoff, pillaged wilderness.

  2. Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 06/05/2012 - 12:23 am.

    Missing plank

    The Democrats missed their chance. The individuals who kept the pro-water mining resolution from passing are politicians and union members closely linked to the sulfide-mining industry; and it wasn’t an easy task. Rep. Carly Melin tried to get the resolution thrown out and was unsuccessful, that had a floor vote and she lost a number of times on various issues connected to it. She asked for 15 minutes suspension for labor to caucus, it lost on a floor vote – labor walked out anyway and caucused for 15 minutes and then returned to work the tables against the resolution. They had a battle on their hands, barely succeeded, and it is only going to escalate. It is not a battle between the Twin Cities and northern Minnesota either, much as sulfide-mining political insiders continue to perpetuate that myth, propaganda to shore up slipping power. Pro-water resolutions were sent to the Democratic convention from caucuses throughout the Arrowhead, by residents asking for a resolution to protect our treasured lakes. It is the voting issue that would have won the race for the Democrats, not lost it, if they had the foresight to recognize it. Northern Minnesota is not just the Iron Range. The rest of the Arrowhead votes too. It already knew Cravaack would not protect our waters. It was waiting for a candidate who would.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/05/2012 - 09:46 am.

      I’m not so sure

      I highly doubt that any resolution will win an election, but they certainly can lose it. Those of us paying close attention will note its absence, but most of the people who fill out ballots are far less observant. Even worse, they’re likely to believe twisted versions of the truth over straight facts. Still, resolutions are not written in stone for any candidate, especially Democrats. I don’t think that the fact that the mining resolution failed to get adopted will stop any candidate from actually behaving as though it did. In other words, you still have the opportunity to vote for someone who is “pro-water.” Even if there weren’t a boatload of other pro-environment resolutions that WERE approved.

      • Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 06/05/2012 - 11:30 am.


        If an issue (or resolution) can “certainly lose an ellection,” an issue (or resolution) can certainly win an election. To say otherwise is not logical.

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/06/2012 - 09:06 am.

          Logic only works with certainties and near-certainties. Politics is neither, even if you ignore the illogic of the voting public.

  3. Submitted by Elanne Palcich on 06/05/2012 - 04:06 pm.

    Mining vs. the Future

    While public sentiment and knowledge is questioning the opening of a sulfide mining district in Minnesota’s Arrowhead, the political delegation remains controlled by mining interests. Support of sulfide mining is ultimately going to be a losing position for politicians.
    What we need is a breath of fresh air–leadership that will actually oppose projects that ruin our water and environment.
    And by the way, the prove-it-first mining resolution did not come solely from the Twin Cities. It was approved at caucuses throughout the Arrowhead Region.
    Anyone paying attention to the recent mineral exploration leases allowed by the Governor’s Executive Committee will realize that mineral exploration is decreasing property values and making it impossible for lakeshore property owners to sell their property, due to their lack of subsurface ownership rights.
    The sulfide mining issue is not going away–and if the mining actually gets permitted, the pollution will be here, basically forever.

  4. Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 06/06/2012 - 02:02 pm.


    The State Convention is the opportunity for the grassroots of the Democratic Party to tell their elected leaders what they want; it is not when elected leaders get to tell the people of the Democratic Party what they should do. Elected leaders such as Rep. Carly Melin are not leading, they are dictating. Not only orchestrating what resolutions should be supported, but also what candidates should be supported. Carly Melin is a DFL endorsed candidate for District 5B. She is eligible to receive funds from the DFL. Meanwhile she is actively campaigning for Jeff Anderson, a non-DFL endorsed candidate. Supporting his run for the 8th District Congressional seat, she solicited funds for him in a statewide effort.

  5. Submitted by Anton Moody on 06/07/2012 - 04:08 pm.

    Iron Range Delegation shouted the loudest…

    I was a Delegate at last weekends convention in Rochester and was outwardly and rather rudely treated by Ms. Melin and her supporters. I am active in the efforts up in Northeastern MN to shed light on what non-ferrous metal mining means to our area. I arrived two hours early to the convention and struck up conversation with many delegates and urged them to support the resolution against sulfide mining. As the article states, the resolution was rather poorly worded, and to that I am dissapointed. Every precinct in Cook County brought forth a resolution in opposition to the new mining efforts. I feel the reason it failed at the state level, was because the full depth and wording of our resolution was stripped down to a rather ambiguous and political sounding blurb. I thought it rather poignant that Rep. Melin referred to herself as a Super Delegate while delivering her address to the convention, since every dialogue I tried to enter into with either her or her supporters basically pointed out that what I’m doing is wrong, MN has mined forever, and i have no place telling them what to do. It’s their job to tell me and the other 30000 plus people up here who’s jobs depend on a clean environment to shut up and take your medicine. When I asked her why you would want to stake our future on a few thousand boom and bust mining jobs, her response was “Better boom and bust than always bust”. Clearly she needs to get out of the Iron Range for awhile, and see how the rest of us here in Northern Minnesota are making a go of things.
    -as an aside, about the picture of her addressing the group of labor supporters outside the convention hall, I went out to listen to what they had to say and after Rep. Melin, Sen. Tomosoni, and some Union president who wasnt even supposed to be there all spoke, they let one union member speak in favor of the resolution. They quickly shut him down and began filing back into the convention when I was confronted and asked to see my union card and verbally assaulted for being present at their little pep talk. It baffles me why the unions are so fired up to support a project which won’t even hire union employees, and so quick to shut up anybody who wavers the least bit from their position.

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