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MPCA issues final PolyMet permits

Agency gives company approval to alter protected wetlands

Marcus White
Posted 12/20/18

ST PAUL - The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has moved the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine another step closer to reality.

The agency, on Dec. 20, issued three permits to PolyMet’s …

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MPCA issues final PolyMet permits

Agency gives company approval to alter protected wetlands

Posted

ST PAUL - The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has moved the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine another step closer to reality.

The agency, on Dec. 20, issued three permits to PolyMet’s NorthMet project, including air and water quality certifications, along with a Section 401 Certificate allowing the altering of protected wetlands.

“Issuing these permits comes after a years-long process that saw the most thorough environmental review any construction project has ever had in Minnesota,” MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said in a statement. “We are confident the requirements in these permits will protect the environment and human health over the long term.”

Agency officials say they received 700 comments on the proposed permits earlier this year. The federal Environmental Protection Agency, which under previous administrations has generally provided substantive comment on such major projects, did not comment on the proposed permits.

While the project is planned to be built on protected land, the MPCA said the 401 Water Quality Certificate includes provisions for PolyMet to install water treatment systems that not only treat water but capture toxic runoff through a series of barriers and monitoring systems.

In addition, the MPCA said it will enforce strict air quality measurements at both the mining site south of Babbitt and at the processing facility near Hoyt Lakes.

Opponents of the project had a swift reaction to the decision.

“PolyMet has engaged in a bait and switch scheme to avoid scrutiny of larger and even riskier mine plans disclosed in their financial documents,” Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy CEO Kathryn Hoffman said in a statement. “This is a sham permitting process that the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy has repeatedly objected to.”

The MCEA is one of several groups who have filed appeals to previous permits issued by the DNR earlier this year.

The group has taken issue with the DNR and MPCA treating the project as a “minor emissions producers” despite PolyMet plans to process up to 32,000 tons of copper and nickel at the site.

Labor groups on the other hand, have come out in support of the MPCA’s decision.

“Jobs for Minnesotans celebrates the opportunities this final approval from the MPCA brings to northeast Minnesota, with hundreds of well-paying jobs and critical investment to sustain local communities,” said the labor and industry group in a statement. “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.”

As of publication, there was no indication if or when any groups opposed to the project planned to appeal the permits.

The permits can be viewed online at www.pca.state.mn.us/northmet.

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