Poly Met Mining Inc. has obtained all required permits from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for its NorthMet mining project—an open pit copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals mine that would be located within the Lake Superior basin between Hoyt Lakes and Babbit, Minnesota. Although the project still requires water and air quality permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and a Wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the news has been cause for celebration for some and opposition for others.
More information about the Polymet permitting process:
While many are anticipating the economic benefits of the mining project and potential to create good-paying jobs, environmental groups are concerned about the potential for pollution caused by the mine, which would affect nearby waterways that lead into Lake Superior. Copper-nickel open-pit mining has historically resulted in extensive damage to natural habitats through acid mine drainage, sulfur dioxide emissions, land degradation and physical effects associated with open-pit mining. Although the permits administered by the DNR include financial assurance plans for reclamation of the NorthMet mining project site, the fact is that reclamation of open-pit mines can take a very long time, and the site will most likely never return to its pre-mining condition.
The project was initially proposed 14 years ago and has undergone extensive review. Before any copper-nickel mining in Minnesota could even be considered, a regional copper-nickel study was completed between 1976 and 1979. The published study is made available electronically through the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library along with many other reference materials about the history of copper-nickel mining, or lack thereof, in Minnesota. The DNR held several opportunities for public review and engagement with stakeholder and indigenous groups, which did result in changes to the permits. Environmental groups are still pressuring the DNR to rescind their permits and will likely continue to fight to preserve this forest area for non-mining uses.
- December 16, 2016 Infosuperior article which links to a Bloomberg article entitled, “Will Copper Pots Destroy Lake Superior?”
- January 16, 2017 Infosuperior article entitled, “Toronto Company Completes Land Exchange to Build Minnesota Mine”