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Court Upholds Minnesota's Mining Rules for PolyMet Project

PolyMet announced a ruling in their favor from the MN Court of Appeals. PolyMet announced a ruling in their favor from the MN Court of Appeals. |  Photo: WDIO FILE

Updated: August 05, 2019 05:35 PM

PolyMet announced on Monday that the Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the state's non-ferrous mining laws. Those laws had been challenged by environmental groups. But in a unanimous decision, the court rejected that challenge.

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CEO Jon Cherry said, "We are pleased that the Court of Appeals ruled in our favor. Minnesota's standards for non-ferrous mining re among the strictest anywhere in the world, and we demonstrated through the extensive environmental review and permitting process that we can meet or exceed these standards."

The DNR also weighed in. The statement from Assistant Commissioner Barb Naramore reads, "The DNR is pleased with today's Minnesota Court of Appeals decision upholding the state's non-ferrous mining rules.  These rules were developed after a robust public process in the early 1990s, including active participation by a wide range of stakeholder interests.  The decision affirms that, in seeking to promulgate rules that are both rigorous and appropriately flexible, the DNR did not exceed its statutory authority or violate constitutional provisions.  We acknowledge the importance of learning from experience as rules are implemented and identifying opportunities for improvement.  This is something we strive to do with all of our rules.  However, we continue to believe that the current non-ferrous rules fundamentally provide an effective framework for implementing our regulatory responsibilities and ensuring protection for public health and the environment."

Kevin Reuther, Legal Director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, released the following statement: "Nonferrous mining presents new and unknown dangers, and DNR's rules are not sufficient to protect Minnesota’s resources. The state's highest court should review these rules given what's at stake.  "

And a statement from Jobs for Minnesotans: “Once again the Court of Appeals has upheld the strength and validity of the State of Minnesota’s regulatory and environmental review processes. Opponents of the PolyMet NorthMet project also recently tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Legislature to approve new legislation that would have had the same effect. 
 
“It’s unfortunate but true that investment in job-creating development projects in Minnesota today must involve calculating the costs and delays of inevitable legal challenges to regulatory decisions by well-financed opposition. Lawsuits, no matter how spurious, are now an intrinsic phase of the process, stretching out the time before people in the state can begin to experience the benefits from the project. 
 
“But reasoned judgments ultimately prevail, as a group of Jobs for Minnesotans board members were reminded on a visit four years ago to the Eagle Mine, a modern, sustainably operated underground copper-nickel mine near Marquette, Mich., on the Upper Peninsula. On the very day of our visit the court ruled in favor of the mine owners in the last of the lawsuits filed against the project, which had been fully permitted seven years before operations began in 2014.
 
“Today the Eagle mine and its associated mill employ 400 full-time workers and is expected to have a $4.3 billion impact on the Michigan economy before its scheduled closure in the mid-2020s. We look forward to the day Minnesotans start to benefit from the 360 well-paying PolyMet jobs, plus those from the $1 billion construction project to get it started.”

PolyMet plans on mining copper and nickel near Babbitt, and processing them at the old LTV site in Hoyt Lakes.

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