Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mining Trouble: Why I stand with Bent Paddle Brewing

A couple weeks ago, it was announced that business owners on the Iron Range were boycotting Bent Paddle Brewing on account of Bent Paddle's opposition to the PolyMet mining site in Hoyt Lakes, MN located next to the St. Louis River, which flows right into the Twin Ports (Duluth-Superior) area. In addition to Bent Paddle, they are calling for a boycott of all business affiliated with a group called the Downstream Business Coalition, a group of area businesses that are opposed to the PolyMet mine amidst concerns that it will harm the environment and the greater St. Louis County area as a whole.

The concerns are that the mine will pollute the water and turn every major drinking source in Northeastern Minnesota into, quite literally, undrinkable swill. The decision on whether or not the mining will happen is expected to be decided on next month.

I write this article knowing that a significant amount of my viewership comes from the Iron Range and frankly, I'm willing (and ready) to deal with any flak that comes my way.

So here it goes: I think the PolyMet mine is a terrible idea.

To start things off, at the center of all of this is Bent Paddle, who is the biggest production brewery in the Twin Ports area. They have been credited with bringing Duluth back into the spotlight with their phenomenal beers. In fact, the reason why Bent Paddle joined the Downstream Business Coalition is, understandably so, because they get their water from the St. Louis River and it's pretty much the reason why they make beer in the first place

You see Bent Paddle isn't the only business that's against mining, but there are quite a few members on that list and these aren't just some small no-name businesses but ones that are fairly recognizable:

  • Amity Coffee
  • Anahata Herbals
  • Andi’s
  • At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe
  • Bella Terra Landscaping
  • Bent Paddle Brewing Co. 
  • Carmody’s
  • Day Tripper of Duluth 
  • Deer Tail Press
  • Dirt Candy Designs
  • Duluth Coffee Company
  • Duluth Grill
  • Duluth Running Company
  • Duluth Technology Co.
  • Evolve
  • Gilbert Law Office
  • Heck of the North Productions
  • Intectural
  • Just Take Action (Fitger’s Brewhouse Restaurant Group)
  • Lake Avenue Café
  • Lake Superior Art Glass
  • Loll Designs
  • Luke Chiropractic and Wellness
  • Med Search Network
  • Nordic Firewood
  • Northern Waters Smokehaus
  • Old Saw Media
  • Pure Clean
  • Red Herring Lounge 
  • Sawbill Canoe Outfitters 
  • Sawtooth Outfitters 
  • Sled Dogs to St. Paul 
  • Superior Paddle
  • Taiga Design Built
  • The Thirsty Pagan
  • Up North Fungi
  • Vikre Distillery
  • Yker Acres
You'll also notice too that Bent Paddle isn't the only brewery on the list. in fact, there are three other breweries on the list, plus a distillery. This leads me to believe the reason for Bent Paddle being targeted in particular is because they're not only the largest brewery but also have the widest reach; With availability across Minnesota (mostly) and parts of Wisconsin.

Now I understand the Iron Range has had a pretty terrible year, from ore prices dropping, the mines shutting down to the numerous layoffs. I can understand PolyMet providing jobs for miners but for how long will those jobs last before you're back at where you first started? There has to be another way to revitalize the Iron Range economy without causing more harm to the environment. Plus when you factor in the hundreds of years of supposed mitigation & cleanup and the proposed effects that the mine could have on both the environment and the economy of St. Louis County, Duluth and Minnesota as a whole are too great to risk and support.

Duluth has been on an economic upswing for a while now, a far cry from where they were back in the 1980's. When mining took a nose dive, it forced Duluth to diversify their economy, to which they have been successful in accomplishing. I see the PolyMet mine wiping away any progress the area has made in the long run. To make my case more relevant, those breweries (and distilleries) that rely on clean water to make our beers would be in serious trouble, not to mention the people who need access to a clean source of water.

In regards to this whole boycott, I feel it isn't just detrimental to the economy, it also pits small businesses against other one another for what I consider to be all the wrong reasons. For example in this article, the owner of a Vi's Pizza in Biwabik went from ordering around $2,000 worth of Bent Paddle a month (which is a pretty large amount) to ordering none. Not offering a product your customers have a very high demand for not only hurts your business when you stop offering it, but it also hurts the company that makes the product.

Even though I no longer live in Duluth, I still feel an immense connection not just to the town itself, but Northeastern Minnesota as a whole. It's a beautiful area and it would be heartbreaking to see all of it go to waste on account of what I would consider to be a temporary solution . As such, I stand behind Bent Paddle & the Downstream Business Coalition. You can love me or hate me about what I think about this whole issue but I stand by my belief that there is a better & more sustainable way to strengthen the Iron Range economy without putting the rest of the area at risk.

- Nick

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