Once-critical EPA praises PolyMet changes to environmental reviewA recent letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the state and federal agencies overseeing the revised PolyMet environmental review appears to offer good news for the copper mining project.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
A recent letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the state and federal agencies overseeing the revised PolyMet environmental review appears to offer good news for the copper mining project.
The letter from the EPA to the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said the revised environmental review “reflects significant progress in designing and clearly documenting the project.”
The letter, dated Aug. 7 and signed by the EPA’s Alan Walts, the agency’s director of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, goes on to state that “EPA appreciates the collaborative and constructive discussions we have had with the co-lead agencies since receiving the PSDEIS, In these discussions, we have covered all of the areas where the EPA had questions or comments.”
The so-called Preliminary Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, underway for the last two years, was needed after the EPA strongly criticized the first effort released in 2010, calling it incomplete and unacceptable.
Since then, the company and regulatory agencies have gone back and reworked the plan, especially dealing with water treatment to prevent acidic runoff as well as a proposed land exchange for PolyMet to acquire the mine site property from the U.S. Forest Service.
The “draft, supplemental Environmental Impact Statement,” a detailed plan for how the mine will operate in compliance with state and federal regulations, was compiled by independent contractor EMR and has been years in the making.
In May, PolyMet announced that the revised environmental review had been completed and was in the hands of the regulatory agencies and others, such as the EPA and tribal resource agencies. Those agencies now are submitting comments, and the entire package will be made public later this year, when another round of meetings will be held and public comments will be accepted.
The company has said it hopes lead agencies will deem the revised environmental review adequate and publish a final EIS early in 2014, with permits to begin mining issued shortly thereafter and construction on the facility starting in the second half of 2014.
In the works for more than a decade, the PolyMet project has been reworked in recent years to meet concerns of regulatory agencies and others about the long-term implications of emissions, especially potentially acidic runoff when the copper-bearing rock is exposed to water and air.
PolyMet is proposing Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine, a $600 million open-pit mine near Babbitt and a processing center at the old LTV taconite mine north of Hoyt Lakes. The project would create about 350 jobs for more than 20 years, plus extensive spinoff business. PolyMet also would recover gold, platinum, palladium and other valuable metals.