REGIONAL— A coalition of environmental groups have argued in court for months that Minnesota’s nonferrous metallic mining rules are too vague to be enforceable and don’t readily protect the …
REGIONAL— A coalition of environmental groups have argued in court for months that Minnesota’s nonferrous metallic mining rules are too vague to be enforceable and don’t readily protect the environment. But a three-judge panel of the state’s Court of Appeals found otherwise this week. It was a victory for the Department of Natural Resources and PolyMet Mining in a week in which a second panel of appeals court judges put the company’s water discharge permit on hold.
The lawsuit over state mining rules is among several filed by conservation and environmental groups after the state approved PolyMet Mining’s controversial proposal to build Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine late last year.
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Friends of the Boundary Waters are the primary complainants in the current case over state rules.
The appeals court panel found that the state’s mining rules governing nonferrous mining are valid, and provide needed flexibility to regulate under various circumstances. In its decision, the three-judge panel said the conservation groups’ complaint that the law does not impose specific limitations on copper-nickel mining is more appropriately directed to the state Legislature or the DNR.
PolyMet officials lauded the decision. “Minnesota’s standards for nonferrous mining are 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,” said PolyMet CEO Jon Cherry.
But MCEA legal director Kevin Reuther suggested his group will ask the state’s Supreme Court to consider the issue. “Nonferrous mining presents new and unknown dangers,” Reuther said in a statement, “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.”