DNR OKs PolyMet Project To Move Forward

The long-studied proposal would be the state's first copper-nickel mine.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is allowing PolyMet’s proposal for a copper-nickel mine to move forward after deeming its environmental impact statement “adequate.”

The move doesn't signal full approval, but allows PolyMet to move through the next stage in the permitting process, which includes over 20 local, state and federal permits, plus an okay by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“This is a historic event for Minnesota, the Iron Range and for PolyMet,” PolyMet CEO Jon Cherry said in a statement.

The state spent more the 90,000 hours of staff on the 3,500-page document. It's by far the state's largest environmental review for what is proving to be one of the most controversial projects in recent years. 

“The environmental review process is about describing the potential environmental effects of the propossed [PolyMet] project,” DNR commissioner Tom Landwehr said in a statement. “We are confident that this document has thoroughly examined the important environmental topics and has addressed them.”

The project was first proposed a decade ago, but has been set back by objections from environmental groups worried about nearby rivers and lakes being polluted, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The mine, which is expected to run for 20 years, would require a reverse osmosis treatment plant built to prevent leaching on the site. That plant would have to run for potentially hundreds of years.

Concerns from citizens around the state have been pouring in: The supplemental draft EIS received 58,000 comments—the most it's ever received—and 4,000 people attended three public meetings in 2014.