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Dayton announces support for PolyMet

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 10/25/17

REGIONAL— Gov. Mark Dayton has thrown his support behind the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine, near Hoyt Lakes, but says that he still wants assurances that the company will be able to meet …

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Dayton announces support for PolyMet

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REGIONAL— Gov. Mark Dayton has thrown his support behind the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine, near Hoyt Lakes, but says that he still wants assurances that the company will be able to meet environmental standards and demonstrate sufficient financial wherewithal to pay for clean-up.

The governor’s decision has been a long time in coming, and he has faced enormous pressure from both supporters and opponents of the proposed mine, which is expected to create about 350 jobs on the Iron Range.

Environmentalists argue that copper-nickel mining is more dangerous than taconite mining, since the metals are bound up in sulfide-bearing rock that is known to leach acid when exposed to air and water.

The governor said he recognizes the risks involved, but said he thinks it can be operated safely and said the economic benefits of the mine outweigh the environmental risks.

The governor’s announcement comes as the DNR is planning to announce its decision on whether to issue a draft permit-to-mine for the project— and that could come soon. DNR officials, in August, told the Timberjay that they plan to issue a draft permit to mine before the end of the year. Dayton said he won’t interfere in that permitting process.

The governor noted that his position on PolyMet does not change his view of the more controversial Twin Metals mine near Ely. That project, located closer to the Boundary Waters, would be located within the Kawishiwi River watershed, a major watershed within the 1.1 million-acre wilderness area.

The governor’s position on PolyMet appears to ensure that the project will receive all needed state permits, but the mine still needs some federal permits, and the governor’s position is unlikely to impact those decisions.

And economics may ultimately decide the fate of the PolyMet project. At least two other copper mines in the U.S. have been fully permitted in the past two years, but have been unable to attract the investor interest needed to move the projects forward.

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