News release: DNR issues Record of Decision for Mile Post 7 West Ridge railroad relocation, dam extension and stream mitigation project

March 4, 2024

Following extensive analysis, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued a Record of Decision determining that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not needed for Northshore Mining Company’s proposed Mile Post 7 West Ridge railroad relocation, dam extension and trout stream mitigation project. Northshore Mining Company is a subsidiary of Cleveland Cliffs, Inc.

Mile Post 7 is a tailings disposal facility that serves the Northshore Mine and has been in operation since the late 1970s in Lake County, Minnesota. The proposed project would include extending two of the dams for the tailings basin and relocating a material supply railroad at the tailings basin. The project would also include several trout stream restoration actions.

The DNR considers multiple criteria when determining if an EIS is needed and public comments relevant to those criteria. Among the criteria are the availability of information to evaluate impacts and whether the potential impacts can be controlled or mitigated by required permits and approvals.

More than 1,300 individuals provided comments on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for DNR consideration. Comments were submitted on many aspects of the project, including whether the project would be an expansion of the Mile Post 7 tailings basin and the safety of the tailings basin dams.

Because the project proposes to use the remaining capacity of the tailings basin studied in the original EIS for the facility, and subsequently authorized by applicable permits, the DNR does not consider the project to be an expansion of the Mile Post 7 tailings basin. The tailings basin dams are subject to extensive regulatory oversight pursuant to the DNR’s Master Permit, issued by the agency pursuant to a decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1977.

“We appreciate the public’s comments on the proposed project and their perspectives on the history and regulation of the Mile Post 7 tailings basin,” DNR Assistant Commissioner Jess Richards said. “Our review confirms that potential environmental impacts from the proposed project match those studied in prior environmental review and/or are subject to robust ongoing regulatory oversight. Importantly, the Mile Post 7 tailings dams are some of the most closely regulated dams in the state, meeting all applicable factors of safety and state dam safety laws.”

This Record of Decision documents that the DNR has robust information available on all potential impacts from the proposed project, as well as the extensive ongoing governmental regulatory authority over the facility. This includes substantial information on dam safety monitoring, inspection, and reporting requirements. The record shows the facility has been regulated with the most up-to-date dam safety considerations.

The completion of environmental review means that state and local authorities can now make final permitting decisions regarding the proposed project. The EAW and Record of Decision document the numerous permits that would be required prior to any construction, or are already in place, that regulate the facility and ensure environmental protection and public safety going forward.

The DNR released the EAW on the proposed project in April 2023. The Record of Decision documents the DNR’s thorough consideration of all information generated through the EAW process and includes responses to the comments from the public.

The EAW and Record of Decision are available on the project page on the DNR website.

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