PolyMet Mining Corp. on Wednesday said it will get another $14 million in cash from its largest investor, Switzerland-based Glencore, to help the junior mining company advancing toward opening Minnesota's first copper mine.
PolyMet announced the new loan in its quarterly financial report that shows the company continuing to spend money as it seeks state and federal permits to start the mine and processing center north of Hoyt Lakes.
PolyMet received $3 million on June 3, will get another $8 million in July and $3 million in August, with PolyMet paying Glencore 15 percent interest. Glencore also is asking for a PolyMet financing plan that will enable the company to repay Glencore in 2017 and have money to complete permitting.
Under agreements struck last year, Glencore now owns 28.4 percent of PolyMet stock. Glencore could eventually hold 37.4 percent of PolyMet under new terms of an $11 million loan Glencore gave to PolyMet in January. There also has been speculation about Glencore becoming the full owner of the PolyMet project if and when it receives regulatory approval to start mining.
Glencore owns mining, oil, agriculture and other commodity businesses worldwide.
PolyMet also reported Wednesday that it has now spent $107.7 million over the past decade on environmental review and permit acquisition for the so-called NorthMet project, the only mining project for Toronto-based PolyMet.
When acquisition of the former LTV Mining processing center and tailings basin is included - along with mine engineering plans, mining equipment, staff salaries and the cost to acquire mineral rights, among other expenses - the total investment by PolyMet so far exceeds $250 million.
All of the money has come from investors and creditors, with PolyMet - assuming the project is approved - still well over a year away from any production and income.
The company will need hundreds of millions of dollars more to actually build out the project, either from investors or creditors. In addition to the $250 million already spent, another estimated $600 million or more will be needed to dig the open-pit mine, build railroad and other infrastructure and restart the long-shuttered LTV processing center to get the mine producing copper, nickel and other valuable metals.
The proposed PolyMet copper project is expected to employ 300 people for 20 or more years. Supporters say the new kind of mining will help diversify the regional economy now tied to iron ore mining. Critics say copper mining presents unique environmental concerns, especially tainted runoff that could harm waterways.
PolyMet has moved past the environmental review phase with state approval earlier this year. The company now needs more than 20 state and federal permits before any mining can occur.
The company also is awaiting word on a proposed land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service for access to the proposed mine site.
Since completion of the state's adequacy determination on the NorthMet Final Environmental Impact Statement in March, "PolyMet is transforming from the extensive environmental review process into completion of permitting, financing, construction and operation of the project," PolyMet CEO Jon Cherry said in the quarterly statement. "We plan to submit these permit applications in the coming weeks."