Daily Digest: Mining in the news

Good morning, and welcome to summer. Here’s the Digest.

1. Where is Klobuchar on copper-nickel mining? Her roots in Minnesota’s Iron Range and longstanding alliance with the iron mining industry have been hallmarks of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s political identity since she first ran for office. They’re also important to her presidential run as a “Heartland” Democrat who can appeal to rural white voters who swung to President Donald Trump in 2016. Yet as the new — and more environmentally risky — copper-nickel mining industry emerges on the Iron Range and promises a jolt to the mining economy, Klobuchar’s views have remained something of a mystery. After 15 years of public scrutiny, people for and against mining seem pretty sure Klobuchar supports PolyMet, a $1 billion copper-nickel mine planned near Hoyt Lakes. Yet they are far less sure of Klobuchar’s stance on Twin Metals, a large and controversial operation that Chilean mining giant Antofagasta hopes to build just miles from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The uncertainty has left many who follow the high-profile issue frustrated or at least confused, to the point where even some of Klobuchar’s allies on the Range couldn’t speculate where the senior senator lands. (MinnPost)

2. Group sues over mining study. An environmental group sued the Trump administration Thursday, seeking the release of documents related to a decision last year to end a study of a proposed 20-year mining ban within the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Wilderness Society filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., to try to force four agencies — the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service — to respond to six outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests the group made nine months ago. The law requires federal agencies to respond to FOIA requests within 20 business days. “We’re fed up with waiting and we’re forced to resort to legal action,” said Allison Flint, an attorney for the Wilderness Society. The Interior Department, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management said they couldn’t comment on pending litigation. The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, didn’t reply to a request for comment on the lawsuit. (MPR News)

3. Backlash against Somali refugees in St. Cloud. In this predominantly white region of central Minnesota, the influx of Somalis, most of whom are Muslim, has spurred the sort of demographic and cultural shifts that President Trump and right-wing conservatives have stoked fears about for years. The resettlement has divided many politically active residents of St. Cloud, with some saying they welcome the migrants. But for others, the changes have fueled talk about “white replacement,” a racist conspiracy theory tied to the declining birthrates of white Americans that has spread in far-right circles and online chat rooms and is now surfacing in some communities. “If we start changing our way of life to accommodate where they came from, guess what happens to our country?” said Liz Baklaich, a member of C-Cubed who unsuccessfully ran for St. Cloud City Council last year. She carries an annotated Quran in her purse. “If our country becomes like Somalia, there is nowhere for us to go.” (New York Times)

4. Assault investigated as hate crime. St. Paul police are investigating Wednesday’s assault of a Metropolitan State University employee as a potential hate crime. “The victim was targeted by the suspect due to an appearance or his possible ethnic origin,” said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesperson. The suspect is a white adult male and police are still searching for him, Ernster said. The staffer was resting outside the New Main building on Metro State’s campus a few blocks east of downtown St. Paul on Wednesday afternoon when the suspect allegedly approached him and asked, “what are you doing in my country?” “Then suddenly, without provocation, he struck the victim with a closed fist in the head,” Ernster said. The suspect walked away from the scene toward the Swede Hollow park, Ernster said.The victim followed for a while but eventually lost track of the suspect. The victim sustained a small cut under his eye and some swelling, Ernster said, noting that he went to the hospital under his own power. (MPR News)

5. Tribal leaders praise Walz administration. The state will spend millions each year on tribal contract schools. A Missing and Murdered indigenous Women Task Force starts meeting this summer. And American Indian communities get $2 million a year for traditional healing to combat opioid addiction. “Usually to get one or two things passed that deal with tribes is an accomplishment. But to have this many bills go through that affect tribes positively is phenomenal,” said Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council President Shelley Buck. She spoke last week as she emerged from a ceremonial bill signing where Gov. Tim Walz affirmed that her community’s tribal police don’t need county approval to enforce the law. Five months ago, Walz took office with Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, the first indigenous woman to hold statewide office in Minnesota. The new administration promised partnership with tribes. The candidates visited each of the state’s 11 tribal nations on the campaign trail, something tribal leaders said had never been done. In speeches, Walz often talked about tribal communities as a barometer for Minnesotans’ well-being — saying if they are doing well, then so is the rest of the state. (Star Tribune)

Finally, what would you do if you were governor for a few hours?

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