PolyMet Receives More Permits for Project

Updated: December 20, 2018 06:53 PM

Christmas came early for PolyMet. On Thursday, the company announced it has received the last of the major permits it needs from the state of Minnesota.

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The MPCA issued the water quality and air quality permits and the Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification. Agency commissioner John Linc Stine said, "Issuing these permits comes after a years-long process that saw the most thorough environmental review any construction project has ever had in Minnesota. We are confident the requirements in these permits will protect the environment and human health over the long term."

He added it was a difficult decision to make, but Thursday was the day to make it. "It was difficult because I know many people struggle when they think about this project. It's difficult because I know many people are not in agreement with this decision."

Still, he said the process Minnesota has to issue the permits is rigorous, and the project is consistent with current law and rules. He does not anticipate any permit decisions changing with the new governor takes office.

In total, the state has issued 17 permits or approvals, according to PolyMet. The DNR issued 11 permits on November 1st. 

PolyMet's CEO Jon Cherry issued this statement on Thursday, "We are extremely pleased with the outcome. The permits pave the way for a final decision from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on its wetlands permit, the only remaining federal permit. That decision is expected soon. The permits also provide certainty for the financing process over the next few months as we prepare for the 2019 construction season."

The plan is to mine the copper-nickel deposit near Babbitt, and process the minerals at the old LTV site in Hoyt Lakes.

Environmental groups have already appealed the permits issued by the DNR. And multiple lawsuits remain over the land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service.

As for Thursday's news, reaction from supporters and opponents has been coming in.

The CEO of Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy sent a statement, saying, "PolyMet has engaged in a bait and switch scheme to avoid scrutiny of larger and even riskier mine plans disclosed in their financial documents. This is a sham permitting process that the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy has repeatedly objected to. As we have throughout this process, our experts and attorneys will take a hard look at the permits issued today and make a decision about what actions we can take to best to protect Minnesotans and the water they depend on."

Duluth for Clean Water also sent a statement: 

"We are disappointed in the MPCA's decision. If built, PolyMet would be bad for Minnesota and a continual threat to Duluth and the water tens of thousands of people rely upon. Furthermore, PolyMet would be a climate disaster. There could not be a worse idea than destroying thousands of acres of carbon sink wetlands at this time.
We demand that Minnesotans are protected. We will continue to oppose this disastrous project."

Jobs for Minnesotans issued this: 

"Today, Jobs for Minnesotans celebrates the opportunities this final approval from the MPCA brings to Northeast Minnesota: hundreds of well-paying jobs and critical investment to sustain local communities. The issuance of these air and water permits is validation that the state's very public, thorough and scientific process of evaluation, analysis and decision-making works. 
"These permits will reenergize the region's supplier and professional service network, assure long-term employment for skilled tradespeople, generate a more diverse and thriving regional and statewide economy, as well as create access to essential metals to power the green economy and our modern world. 
"We applaud the hard work of the regulatory agencies involved in this process and express our deep gratitude to the citizens, businesses, labor organizations, elected officials and communities who have been resilient in their efforts to propel the project forward."

 State Reps. Rob Ecklund (DFL - International Falls) and Julie Sandstede (DFL - Hibbing) released the following statement:

"It's terrific news that the MPCA has given Polymet the green light to move forward. We know we have the ability to mine precious metals right here in northern Minnesota in a safe, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly manner and the due diligence and meticulous review from the MPCA and other agencies has demonstrated this to be the case. Over many years, folks on the Range have been incredibly patient as we've waited to see this project move from just a concept to a functioning mine that will deliver quality job opportunities and with them, economic security for families, communities, and the region as a whole. Today's announcement is one more step toward this vision coming true."

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