Fed shutdown delays review for PolyMetLast month’s federal government shutdown 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 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 has been pushed back to Dec. 6.
DNR officials said Wednesday that the federal shutdown “occurred during critical final review steps” for the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The document, which outlines how the proposed mine will affect 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. The DNR, Corps and U.S. Forest Service have been working on the 1,800-page document for more than three years; the original impact statement was considered by federal regulators to be 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 Wednesday. “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.”
Several elements of the environmental review already have 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 comment 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. The permitting process also involves public comment.
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.