Minn. DNR approves copper-nickel mine's environmental review

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has determined a 3,500-page environmental impact statement on a proposed copper-nickel mine project is adequate by state standards. It would be the state's first mine of its kind.

PolyMet Mining’s proposed NorthMet mine project would be located in the St. Louis River watershed on the eastern edge of the Mesabi Iron Range, about 6 miles south of Babbitt and about 1 mile south of the existing iron-ore Northshore Mine. The ore would be processed at a former industrial site, the LTV plant in Hoyt Lakes.

Supporters of the project say the project will bring jobs to the region, but opponents worry it will contaminate the water supply.

The environmental impact statement for the project has involved more than 90,000 hours of state staff time – the cost reimbursed by PolyMet Mining.

“The environmental review process is about describing the potential environmental effects of the proposed NorthMet project,” DNR commissioner Tom Landwehr said. “We are confident this document has thoroughly examined the important environmental topics and has addressed them.”

The adequacy determination does not mean the NorthMet project can begin construction, but it does mean PolyMet can start applying for permits. The project would need to receive more than 20 types of local, state and federal approvals and permits.

The total project area would include the open pit mine, a processing plant, tailings basin and an existing 7-mile-long railroad corridor for ore transport between the mine and the processing plant. The proposed land exchange involves 6,650 acres of federal land at the proposed mine site and 6,722 acres of non-federal land located in Lake and St. Louis counties.