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Environmental groups lose cases regarding PolyMet project

ST. PAUL, MN — An appeals court says the Minnesota DNR does not have to request a supplemental environmental-impact statement from PolyMet for the copper-nickel mine which would be built near Hoyt Lakes.

In a release issued by PolyMet, the company says the three-judge panel was unanimous in affirming the DNR’s decision not to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) based on claims by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Water Legacy.

The groups wanted the DNR to prepare a supplemental review of the project.

The ruling, which covers three consolidated appeals filed in 2018, came after court officials said “the new information submitted by MCEA and Friends of the Boundary Waters did’t significantly affect the potential for environmental effects because it was too speculative.”

Jon Cherry, president and CEO of PolyMet, issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals agrees with us and the DNR. The court’s decision reaffirms the environmental review for NorthMet, which was the most comprehensive and lengthiest in the state’s history, appropriately addresses the scope of our plan to responsibly mine copper, nickel and precious metals from
the world-class Duluth Complex in northeastern Minnesota.”

A final Environmental Impact Statement for the NorthMet Project was published in November of 2015, and was approved by the Minnesota DNR, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy say this is just one of several legal challenges courts will have to rule on, and will consider the next steps they will take after reviewing the order.

A statement made by Elise Larson, the Staff Attorney for Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, can be found below:

The current Environmental Impact Statement reflects a project that is only 30% of the size of the mine that PolyMet has touted to their investors. PolyMet is misleading Minnesotans about the true size and risk of their proposal, while telling investors a different story. DNR’s obligation is to investigate the real proposal. PolyMet’s financial documents show that the version studied by the DNR isn’t financially viable. By allowing this bait and switch scheme and failing to study the real risks of the proposed mine, DNR puts Minnesotans in danger. We will review the court’s decision and determine next steps on this case. Meanwhile, we continue to challenge the decisions that have allowed this poorly designed – and inadequately reviewed – project to be permitted.

Jobs for Minnesotans also sounded off on the decision, and issued this statement Tuesday afternoon:

“Jobs for Minnesotans stands behind the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision today to deny requests by environmental groups for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the PolyMet NorthMet Project. The Court’s decision affirms the thorough review process in place by law has been followed. We look forward to the approximately 1,000 jobs this project will create.  The PolyMet NorthMet Project received its final permits earlier this year after a more than decade-long rigorous process and thorough environmental review by state and federal agencies. The issued permits allow the project and its supporters to prove that it’s possible to mine for these important metals while also protecting the environment.  In addition to long-term employment for skilled tradespeople, the NorthMet Project will generate an estimated $515 million annually to cultivate a more diverse and thriving regional and statewide economy, and create access to essential metals to power the green economy and our modern world.”

Krystal Frasier

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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