Poly Met Mining, Corp. (PolyMet) is proposing a mine and associated processing facilities for the extraction of copper, nickel, and platinum group elements (PGE) in northeastern Minnesota. The mine would be the first of its kind in the state.
The Minnesota DNR's review of PolyMet's NorthMet proposal has followed a rigorous environmental review process and extensive evaluation of the company's permit applications, beginning in 2005. This included careful review of more than 22,000 public comments on draft permits in 2017 and early 2018.
Following a number of court decisions that upheld most of the conclusions made by DNR throughout the review process, the Minnesota Supreme Court only directed the DNR to add a fixed term (set in years) to the permit to mine and to hold a contested case hearing on whether using bentonite clay to reduce oxygen and water infiltration into the proposed tailings basin is a practical and workable reclamation technique. The contested case hearing is set for March 27. Following the hearing and after review of the recommendation of the administrative law judge, the DNR will make a final permit decision on the permit to mine application.
On April 28, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Court of Appeals decision regarding the permit to mine issued to PolyMet in November 2018. The Court offered a clarifying interpretation of who has standing to request a contested case hearing, but concurred with the DNR's application of the standards for granting a contested case hearing. The Court found ample evidence in the permit records to support the DNR's decisions on the critical issues of dam safety and tailings basin closure and found that DNR did not need to hold a contested case hearing on financial assurance or whether Glencore was required to be on the permit to mine at the time of permit issuance. The Court instructed DNR to establish a fixed term for the permit to mine and to hold a contested case hearing on whether the use of bentonite is a practicable and workable technology to reduce oxygen infiltration into the project tailings.
On February 12, 2020, the DNR submitted a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court seeking review of the Minnesota Court of Appeals' January 13, 2020 decision regarding three DNR-issued permits for PolyMet's NorthMet project.
This addendum contains the NorthMet project Permit to Mine Findings of Fact, originally posted November 2018.
On August 7, 2019, the DNR issued the following order regarding requests for reconsideration of the Dam Safety Permit 2016-1380 and the nonferrous Permit to Mine.
The DNR has issued PolyMet's Permit to Mine, Wetland Replacement Plan, Water Appropriation, Dam Safety, Endangered Species Taking Permit, and Public Waters Work permits. You can find these permits, along with supporting documentation, using the navigation menu above or below.
Environmental review process
Prior to the current permitting phase, the proposed NorthMet Mining Project went through an extensive environmental review process. PolyMet submitted its initial project proposal to the DNR in February 2005. In accordance with state and federal laws, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared under the leadership of the DNR, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The Final EIS was deemed adequate by the DNR in March 2016 marking the end of the state's environmental review process. On January 9, 2017, the USFS signed the Final Record of Decision authorizing a land exchange with PolyMet. This exchange will transfer the surface property owned by the Forest Service to PolyMet, who controls the sub-surface (mineral) rights. The land exchange is presently being challenged in federal lawsuits. On March 21, 2019, the USACE completed its Record of Decision and issued an individual permit to PolyMet for its NorthMet project.
The NorthMet Mining Project will be located in the St. Louis River watershed on the eastern edge of the Mesabi Iron Range, about 6 miles south of Babbitt.