REGIONAL— The Minnesota Supreme Court may well have its own opportunity to weigh in on the controversy over permits for PolyMet’s NorthMet copper-nickel mine project near Hoyt Lakes. …
REGIONAL— The Minnesota Supreme Court may well have its own opportunity to weigh in on the controversy over permits for PolyMet’s NorthMet copper-nickel mine project near Hoyt Lakes.
PolyMet President and CEO Jon Cherry announced Thursday that his company will seek review of this week’s Court of Appeals decision by the state’s highest court. That court decision reversed three key permits for the project, including two dam safety permits and the all-important permit to mine.
The Department of Natural Resources had issued the permits in late 2018, but a long list of environmental groups and the Fond Du Lac Band had challenged those permits, arguing that the DNR should have conducted a contested case hearing to allow an administrative law judge to review conflicting expert testimony and other evidence related to those permits.
The Court of Appeals agreed, in a major blow to PolyMet.
“The issues raised by the court of appeals’ decision are, of course, important to our project, but equally, they have far reaching impact to the state of Minnesota and to any future project that seeks permits from the state,” said Cherry in a Jan. 16 statement. “The potential negative consequences of the decision to any industry or business in the state, and the many Iron Range communities and workers who stand to benefit economically from responsible copper-nickel mining, warrant the Minnesota Supreme Court’s attention.”
The appeal is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will take up the matter. Unlike the Court of Appeals, which must hear all cases brought before it, the state’s Supreme Court rejects the vast majority of appeal requests that it receives. But given the high-profile nature of the PolyMet case, it is likely to get serious consideration by the court for a possible hearing.
PolyMet’s decision to appeal could further delay the start of its planned mining operation. Should the high court agree to hear the case, it could months before oral arguments could be scheduled and several months more before the court renders a verdict. Were the Supreme Court to concur with the Court of Appeals on all or most of the recent ruling, PolyMet and the DNR would still need to finish a contested case process which, by itself, could take more than a year.
The DNR could yet decide to join PolyMet in an appeal.