Bent Paddle beers will no longer be sold at municipal liquor stores in Silver Bay.
The city council voted 3-2 last week to stop selling Bent Paddle Brewing products after getting a strongly worded letter from a resident who opposed the brewery's stance on the controversial PolyMet Mine proposal and its membership in the Downstream Business Coalition, the KBJR 6 and Lake News Chronicle report.
The city council's decision went against the city liquor commission's recommendation, which was to still carry the beer, but let customers decide if they wanted to buy the product or not, the paper says.
However, Silver Bay's municipal liquor store is still carrying Vikre Distillery products, which is also a member of the coalition, the Lake News Chronicle says.
The Downstream Business Coalition
The coalition's main concern is how the mine could negatively affect Minnesota's natural resources, like the state's lakes and rivers – assets many of the coalition's members rely on for their businesses.
But the coalition's outspoken opposition to the PolyMet mine has many on the Iron Range thinking twice about supporting those local businesses, the Mesabi Daily News reported. They say the mine is needed to bring jobs to the region, which has been hit hard in recent months amid a downturn in the iron ore mining industry.
Bent Paddle Brewing, which helped start the coalition, has fallen victim to the boycott before. KBJR 6 reported in December that a "significant percentage" of bars, liquor stores and restaurants on the Iron Range have stopped carrying the brewery's products.
Laura Mullen, co-founder of Bent Paddle, told BringMeTheNews in a statement a few weeks ago: "As employers, business people and community-focused Duluthians, we don’t apologize for this. [We're] not anti-mining, we’re pro-clean water. It’s really the only issue for us."
The coalition has also emphasized that it doesn't oppose all mining, but negative reactions to its position on the PolyMet mine come as no surprise. The companies braced to lose some customers because of how controversial the project is, but said the risk was greater if they kept silent, the UpTake reported.
Mullen told CityPages they've gotten support from other beer drinkers in the Twin Cities and near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (an area environmentalists argue could be at risk from the PolyMet mine – though a DNR review found that's not the case).
Status of the PolyMet project
Earlier this month, state officials deemed an environmental impact statement into the PolyMet mining project adequate, paving the way for PolyMet to pursue its $650 million mining development.
PolyMet can now begin the lengthy process of seeking the necessary permits, during which it is likely to face legal challenges. More environmental analysis will also be required during the permit stage. The project also needs approval from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Downstream Business Coalition sent an open letter to Gov. Mark Dayton in October asking him to support small businesses, which also employ people in the region, instead of the mine, which is also expected to create jobs for hundreds of workers on the Iron Range.
Last week, Dayton stated his opposition to a different mining project near the Boundary Waters, citing the potential risks to the protected wilderness area. It marked the first time the governor "definitively and publicly" opposed a mining project in the area, the Star Tribune reported.
It's not clear how or if that will affect the PolyMet mine's future, but environmentalists called it a win.