PolyMet to begin permitting process

The DNR gave the company approval to begin applying for permits.

Eliana Schreiber

A controversial Iron Range mining project is one step closer to the approval of its permitting process.
 
 
Next month, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will lay out the permitting process for the highly anticipated PolyMet mine at a public meeting in Aurora, Minn.
 
 
The Toronto-based mining company’s $650 million project has been heavily debated across the state over the past decade. 
 
 
Some environmental groups are concerned that the DNR-approved environmental impact statement is not addressing their major concerns, said Friends of the Boundary
Waters Wilderness Advocacy Director Aaron Klemz.
 
 
“We don’t believe that the adequacy determination … actually answers critical questions that Minnesotans have been asking about this mine for years,” Klemz said.
 
 
Following the April 19 meeting, PolyMet will submit applications for a number of permits needed for the mine proposal to move forward, said Bruce Richardson, PolyMet vice president of corporate communications and external affairs.
 
 
The company needs nine primary permits out of a total of 20 for the mine, he said.
 
 
Minnesota has never permitted a copper-nickel sulfide mine before, and PolyMet could set a precedent for future mine proposals near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
 
 
The Natural Resources Research Institute at University of Minnesota-Duluth is asking both the senate and house for money for research regarding how mines operate said Rolf Weberg, the institute’s executive director. Their goal for the PolyMet mine is to increase its yield while reducing total costs, and develop new technologies that efficiently gather natural resources. 
 
 
These measures, Weberg said, will help reduce sulfate contamination across the state.
 
 
There are several concerns that the state did not address in the final EIS, Klemz said.
 
 
The DNR has not determined whether groundwater will flow northward and has not drafted a proposal for how they plan to replace 7,000 acres of wetlands that will be drained by the mine, Klemz said. Instead, he said, they have chosen to wait until the permitting phase to address these concerns.
 
 
While the state has deemed the EIS adequate, the federal agencies involved have yet to approve it, Klemz said. Nevertheless, he said, these concerns should have been addressed earlier in the process.
 
 
“It’s kind of amazing that here we are 10 years after they began environmental review and we still don’t have a number of how much of a damage deposit would be enough to protect Minnesota taxpayers,” he said.