(The Center Square) – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Monday confirmed its 2018 decision to approve an air emissions permit for PolyMet Mining’s proposed copper-nickel-platinum mine and processing facilities following years of legal battles.
PolyMet had applied to develop The NorthMet Project – a copper-nickel-platinum mine site near Babbitt – that would be two miles from Northshore Mining Company’s active open pit taconite mine and a plant site at the former site of the LTV Steel Mining Company/Cliffs Erie taconite processing facility, north of Hoyt Lakes. Transportation and utility corridors would connect the sites.
Ore processing equipment, vehicle traffic transporting ore on unpaved roads, material handling operations, and blasthole drilling would create air emissions.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals had remanded the permit to the agency because it did not consider opponents’ concerns, but the agency said in the Monday document outlining its decision that the legal requirements were met.
“MPCA has considered documents discussing the economics of the project as permitted and concludes that the potential for future expansion does not support a conclusion to withhold issuance of the permit under Minn. R. 7007.1000, subp. 1(G) or subp. 2(C),” the agency said in its decision. “Therefore, Permit 13700345-101 for the PolyMet Mining, Inc. facility should be issued.”
“This important permit moves us one big step closer to constructing NorthMet, a project that will provide numerous economic benefits to northeast Minnesota along with a U.S.-based supply of metals crucial for the transition to a greener economy,” PolyMet Chairman, President and CEO Jon Cherry said in a news release published. “Of 22 lawsuits challenging the project only four cases remain and those are planned to be heard during 2022. All cases that have reached final conclusion have been in PolyMet’s favor.”
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy responded to the decision in a news release issued on Monday.
“We are disappointed that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has once again failed to conduct a rigorous investigation into the facts surrounding the size and scale of PolyMet’s true mining plans as shared with investors and securities regulators,” Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy Northeastern Minnesota Program Director JT Haines said in the statement. “Like the now-scuttled Pebble Mine in Alaska, PolyMet is still playing ‘bait and switch’ with its mine project. Our state agencies need to probe these issues, not side-step them. MCEA will continue to insist that we use the best available technology to protect Minnesotans from air pollution, both in regard to the PolyMet proposal and all others.”
The MCEA has not yet decided whether to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the release said.