Duluth News Tribune
The release of the draft permit to mine signals the state is generally satisfied with how PolyMet plans to build, mine and then close the operations without harming the environment — especially without releasing potentially acidic mine waste into the St. Louis River ecosystem.
It’s the biggest step yet for the proposed mine that’s been decades on the drawing board. But the project still must secure final permits, clear lawsuits and pass a possible contested case hearing process as well as find financing to actually pay for construction.
“This is a big step. It’s a big milestone,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “But we are nowhere near done… there are still so many steps that need to be required.”
Landwehr said regulators and the company have followed state laws governing mining to a T.
“At this point… all the requirements have been met,” Landwehr said.
Supporters and critics of the copper mine now have 60 days to submit public comments, with public hearings set for Feb. 7 in Hoyt Lakes and Feb. 8 in Duluth.
Supporters say the estimated $650-plus million project — that will mine 32,000 tons of rock daily and employ about 300 people — will help diversify a regional economy that has been tied the cyclical iron mining industry for a century. The project will require an estimated 2 million construction hours.