Court rejects challenge to Minnesota’s nonferrous mining rules

ST. PAUL, MN — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to the state’s nonferrous mining rules.

Environmentalists challenged the rules after PolyMet’s permit to mine was issued.

PolyMet is working to create a copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes on the Iron Range.

In a press release from PolyMet, the three judges made a unanimous decision and agreed with the DNR that “flexible reclamation rules are necessary to accommodate the variety of conditions at proposed mine sites,” and the court endorsed the DNR’s authority to establish reclamation standards and “deny a permit… if reclamation standards can not be met.”

Environmental groups Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy filed the case against the DNR last year.

PolyMet then intervened as a co-respondent to defend the rules.

Jon Cherry, president and CEO of PolyMet, issued the following statement following the court’s decision:

“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals ruled in our favor. Minnesota’s standards for nonferrous mining are among the strictest anywhere in the world, and we demonstrated through the extensive environmental review and permitting process that we can meet or exceed these standards.”

Kevin Reuther, the Legal Director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, also released a statement Monday regarding the court’s decision:

“Nonferrous mining presents new and unknown dangers, and DNR’s rules are not sufficient to protect Minnesota’s resources. The state’s highest court should review these rules given what’s at stake. In upholding these rules, the Court indicated it expected DNR would issue a permit with specific terms that would protect the public, but the PolyMet permit proves that DNR didn’t do that. This decision shows that DNR’s rules are far from the “toughest standards,” as has been claimed for years.”

The environmentalist groups said in a release, “the Court noted that DNR must make the requirements for a particular mine more definite through the permitting process”.

In addition, Jobs for Minnesotans issued a response to the court’s decision:

“Once again the Court of Appeals has upheld the strength and validity of the State of Minnesota’s regulatory and environmental review processes. Opponents of the PolyMet NorthMet project also recently tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Legislature to approve new legislation that would have had the same effect. It’s unfortunate but true that investment in job-creating development projects in Minnesota today must involve calculating the costs and delays of inevitable legal challenges to regulatory decisions by well-financed opposition. Lawsuits, no matter how spurious, are now an intrinsic phase of the process, stretching out the time before people in the state can begin to experience the benefits from the project. But reasoned judgments ultimately prevail, as a group of Jobs for Minnesotans board members were reminded on a visit four years ago to the Eagle Mine, a modern, sustainably operated underground copper-nickel mine near Marquette, Mich., on the Upper Peninsula. On the very day of our visit the court ruled in favor of the mine owners in the last of the lawsuits filed against the project, which had been fully permitted seven years before operations began in 2014. Today the Eagle mine and its associated mill employ 400 full-time workers and is expected to have a $4.3 billion impact on the Michigan economy before its scheduled closure in the mid-2020s. We look forward to the day Minnesotans start to benefit from the 360 well-paying PolyMet jobs, plus those from the $1 billion construction project to get it started.”

Krystal Frasier

Krystal Frasier

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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