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Views on PolyMet final Environmental Impact Statement

On Friday, the long-anticipated final environmental review of PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel mine was released, detailing how the project can be accomplished while also protecting air quality, water purity and the environment.

The News Tribune already had opined that the release of the 3,000-page Final Environmental Impact Statement, a document that took more than 10 years to get right, marked a moment that could be “welcomed and embraced.”

Other newspapers and at least one elected leader from our area reached similar views. Here’s some of what was said:

DNR did great job on PolyMet

Supporters of the PolyMet copper/nickel/precious metals project near Hoyt Lakes said the Department of Natural Resources and other co-lead agencies ruling on a final Environmental Impact Statement were just taking far too long.

Opponents of the nonferrous project said they could wait and wait and wait.

But the bottom line is that DNR employees and its commissioner, Tom Landwehr, were doing their job in a complete and thorough manner.

On Friday, all those involved in the process, including the two other co-lead agencies — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service — polished off and released the final EIS product.

We are obviously extremely pleased with the result of the EIS, which says the PolyMet project meets all state environmental standards (really, exceeds them) for a “safe” mine venture. In other words: Copper-nickel mining can be done in an environmentally sound way while creating, in the case of PolyMet, 350 permanent jobs, several hundred more indirect positions and more than 2 million hours of construction.

That clears the way for a determination of adequacy for the project — which is really only a formality as officials would not have published an EIS document that was not adequate — and then to allow for permit applications.

It’s a historic step toward Minnesota’s first nonferrous mining operation, which obviously is controversial. But the DNR commissioner and his staff, all of whom worked tirelessly to produce the final EIS, put together a document based on science and common sense.

We applaud the work of Gov. Mark Dayton’s DNR commissioner, Tom Landwehr, and his staff. They served Minnesotans very well.

Mesabi Daily News

A long, careful process toward copper-nickel mining

Minnesotans should appreciate the process that is purposefully working its way to a conclusion as the state decides whether to allow copper and nickel mining on the Iron Range.

After 10 years, it reached a landmark Friday when the state’s Department of Natural Resources issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement. If other steps proceed and the department approves the 3,000-page document early next year, the company could begin applying for the nearly two dozen permits it will need.

Since the beginning, the debate weighed the potential for new private-sector jobs and tax revenue against the threat of environmental damage. With the process, there is a path toward both: the work that people in the region know and want and the safeguards needed to protect a treasured landscape.

Key for the region — and a driver of political support for the project from many of its elected officials — is that ready-and-waiting workforce to fill 350 full-time, family-supporting jobs.

While demand for metals is increasing, PolyMet says, very few mines in the nation produce them. The metals are essential for our modern conveniences and the ease, comfort and economic benefits that go with them. When we embrace wind power, we should do so with the realization that an industrial-sized wind-energy turbine requires about 10,000 pounds of copper. Plumbing, electricity, hybrid cars, aircraft engines and the ubiquitous cellphone battery all rely on metals PolyMet would mine.

The arguments for such mining in Minnesota include the benefits that come with production here, under stringent and exacting environmental requirements, rather than elsewhere in the world without those strict standards.

Environmental safeguards will be backstopped by financial assurances the state will hold. Minnesota law requires non-ferrous mining companies to have bankruptcy-proof financial resources in place to cover possible environmental cleanup costs before the state will issue a permit to operate.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wants a review of company finances to help provide assurances about covering cleanup costs, lest taxpayers be stuck with the bill.

Dayton also has said the matter represents the “most difficult and consequential decision I’ll make as governor.” He last month toured two facilities as part of his due-diligence effort: the Gilt Edge Mine in South Dakota, a federal Superfund cleanup site that has cost taxpayers more than $100 million, so far; and the Eagle Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that opened last year. Dayton returned from the U.P. impressed by that mine’s community outreach, environmental protections and technological operations.

PolyMet has said that working in an established mining district and reusing the existing infrastructure reduces development costs as well as new disturbances to the environment. Its reuse of a former taconite processing plant amounts to Minnesota’s largest recycling project, the company says.

Weighing other benefits, the project — in addition to the economic boost to the region from workers’ wages — will include an estimated $15 million annually in state and local tax revenue, according to a University of Minnesota Duluth study.

PolyMet notes that it has invested more than $200 million during the process. It’s part of “doing it right,” as PolyMet President and CEO Jon Cherry said while stressing that the process is the place to address questions.

Much depends on our ability to ask, and answer, them all in a thoughtful, balanced way.

Every careful step will help us figure out complex issues, and live well with the results.

St. Paul Pioneer Press

‘It’s time to move forward’

“Publication of the FEIS is a major milestone for a project that will bring hundreds of good jobs to our region — and everyone involved, especially concerned members of the public who have thoughtfully weighed in, are to be commended for their contributions. PolyMet is also to be commended for making it clear from the beginning that they are committed to support and comply with every rule, regulation and financial guarantee the process requires to protect our water, air and land. Make no mistake; the monitoring and enforcement process will be vigorous.

“So with that in mind, it’s time to move forward. After studying every aspect of the proposal, and after numerous meetings with all the parties involved, I am urging the co-lead agencies … to wrap things up so this project can be permitted and operational as quickly as possible.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents Northeastern Minnesota, in a statement Friday