DULUTH — Former Gov. Arne Carlson came to town Monday to sound off on what he calls the lack of transparency in the PolyMet mine permitting process.

“Not a single public hearing in the state Legislature — not one,” Carlson said at a news conference on the steps of Duluth City Hall. “And that comes from both parties.”

Flanked by clean water advocates, the state’s Republican governor from 1991-1999 blasted how “extraordinarily well-represented” PolyMet is within the halls of power.

“But who, pray tell, represents the people?” he said.

Mining opponents have been encouraged by recent court rulings that have stalled key permits for the contentious project, with the leader of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Chris Knopf, saying they have the “wind against our back.”

PolyMet, now majority-owned by Swiss commodities giant Glencore, seeks to build the state’s first copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, in the Lake Superior watershed. The company has said it can build and operate the mine responsibly; a spokesperson did not immediately return a call for comment.

Pointing to last week’s student-led climate strike, several speakers at Duluth City Hall mentioned the momentum of the environmental movement and the need to speak out.

“How are we leaving this planet?” Carlson said Monday, the eve of his 85th birthday. “We can’t leave it with question marks.”

The news conference came as Gov. Tim Walz issued a proclamation declaring “climate week” in Minnesota on Monday.

“Pollution and environmental degradation are already existing issues exacerbated by climate change,” the proclamation reads. “The Walz Administration is committed to collaborative action and centering the people most affected by climate change as we work together.”