Filed Under:  U.S. & World

Exhaustive environmental report on proposed PolyMet mine in northern Minnesota

Contributed by on November 8, 2015 at 9:27 pm

The head of Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources says an environmental impact statement for a copper-nickel mine was rigorous and objective.

Saying it’s time to move forward, Nolan urged the DNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service to “wrap things up so the project can be permitted and operational as quickly as possible”.

Answering a concern often raised by critics, the document also says mine runoff would not reach the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Voyageurs National Park.

But environmental groups say the DNR and PolyMet continue to overlook major flaws in the design and proposed operation of the mine, especially how water leaving the site will be treated - or not treated - and how any tainted water will be kept from polluting northern Minnesota waterways.

That clears the way for a determination of adequacy for the project - which is really only a formality as officials would not have published an EIS document that was not adequate - and then to allow for permit applications.

An environmental group opposed to the project says it plans to carefully examine the analysis by state and federal officials. The project has caused divisions within his Democratic Party, splitting those who see its job potential and those who worry about environmental damage.

Governor Mark Dayton has recently traveled to both South Dakota and Michigan to tour mining operations that would be similar to Polymet, in an effort to better understand what benefits and liabilities the project could bring.

Polymet’s NorthMet mining project would operate near Hoyt Lakes. PolyMet predicts it would extract 553 million tons of rock over the 20-year life of the mine. Cherry says the review is detailed and thorough. The statement determines that PolyMet can mine the area in a way that complies with the law, protects the environment and creates hundreds of high-quality, well-paying jobs for the region. Opponents of the project argue the statement and process to evaluate the project is flawed.

Once the final EIS is released, it will go on to a 30-day public review period.

If state and federal regulators approve, Polymet will need to apply for more than 20 permits needed to develop the mine. Because of the complexity involved, the state agency was also planning to put out guide sheets to help the public decode scientific jargon.

One question is whether PolyMet can provide sufficient financial assurances for a proper cleanup when it eventually closes.

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