Federal shutdown delays PolyMet environmental review releaseLast month’s federal government shutdown has caused a two-week delay in the release of the revised environmental-impact statement for the proposed PolyMet copper mine project near Hoyt Lakes.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Last month’s federal government shutdown has caused a two-week delay in the release of the revised environmental-impact statement for the proposed PolyMet copper mine project near Hoyt Lakes.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had said they would release the document to the public Nov. 22, but the release date has been pushed back to Dec. 6.
DNR officials said today that the federal shutdown “occurred during critical final review steps” for the PolyMet so-called Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The document, which outlines how the proposed mine will impact the environment and comply with state and federal regulations, will be published Dec. 6 in the Federal Register and Dec. 9 in the state Environmental Quality Board Monitor.
Three agencies — the DNR, Corps and U.S. Forest Service — have been working on the 1,800-page document for more than three years after the original impact statement was considered by federal regulators as inadequate.
“Our federal partners understandably need this time to complete the final review steps that were delayed during the federal shutdown,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in a statement today. “While the agencies have worked collectively to minimize schedule impacts from the shutdown, our top priority has always been, and remains, to publish the best possible environmental review of this very complex project.”
everal elements of the environmental review have already been made public in newspaper stories, including the fact that experts believe water leaving the project will need to be treated for at least 500 years and possibly in perpetuity.
The document’s official public unveiling will kick off a public review and input period including public meetings, likely to be held in late January, the DNR said. If and when the EIS is approved, PolyMet still will need to receive several permits from state and federal agencies before construction or mining could begin. That permitting process also involves public input.
Toronto-based PolyMet is proposing Minnesota’s first-ever copper mine and processing center, a $600 million open-pit operation that would employ 360 people. Supporters say the mine, which also will process nickel, platinum and other valuable metals will help diversify the regional economy. Critics say the chances of long-term environmental degradation from acidic mine runoff is not worth the relatively short-term economic benefits.