Chances are, if you live in Minnesota, you have heard a lot of talk about PolyMet Mining Corporation’s plans to build an open pit copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals mine in the Superior National Forest near Hoyt Lakes Minnesota.  The Project reached a significant milestone last month when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), on December 6, 2013, released a long-anticipated Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for the “NorthMet Project.”

PolyMet plans to use this abandoned taconite facility to process copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals from its nearby  NorthMet Mine (Source: mprnews.org)

PolyMet plans to use this abandoned taconite facility to process copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals from its nearby NorthMet Mine (Source: mprnews.org)

The NorthMet mine, which would be the first copper-nickel mine in Minnesota, calls for refurbishing the former LTV Steel Mining Company processing plant, a looming industrial facility that now stands unused. PolyMet would also construct a hydrometallurgical facility at the plant site and a tailings facility on the site of old LTV tailings basin. EPA criticism of DNR’s original 2009 Draft EIS for the NorthMet Project prompted the past four years of supplemental environmental analysis. DNR is undertaking the EIS preparation jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is required to conduct an environmental analysis before issuing the Clean Water Act section 404 discharge permit the Project will require.

In addition to evaluating the environmental impacts of the Project itself, the SDEIS also evaluates the impacts of a proposed Land Exchange connected to the Project. The Land Exchange would involve the US Forest Service conveying to PolyMet Superior National Forest Lands encompassing the NorthMet mine site and surrounding lands. In exchange, PolyMet would convey to the Service up to five tracts of non-federal lands that would become part of the National Forest.

DNR is accepting comments on the SDEIS until March 13, 2014. During the comment period, DNR will hold public informational meetings in Aurora, Duluth and St. Paul on January 16, 22, and 28 respectively.  The Duluth meeting will also serve as the Corps’ Clean Water Act Section 404 hearing .

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