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Revised PolyMet permits sent to EPA

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent revised PolyMet air and water quality permits to the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday. The decision to move the permits along comes after a revision process that included looking over 700 public comments, which resulted in additional changes to the initial permits. While not a final decision of the PCA, it represents progress for the company's proposed copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes.

In a news release, the agency cited changes it made to the permits in response to public comments. Those included clarifying fugitive dust control management and recordkeeping for the air permit, and clarifying construction and operation of engineering controls for the water permit.

In response to the decision, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy said in a statement, "This action leaves the proposal with many critical, but unanswered, questions." Stating the permits refer to a version of PolyMet's plan that will never get built, Kevin Lee, the center's senior staff attorney called it a "bait and switch."

"The air and water pollution permits submitted to EPA today are based on a financially impossible version of the PolyMet proposal," said Lee in the press release. "PolyMet's own financial study shows that PolyMet's real plan is to build a mega-mine that mines four times as fast. This mega-mine has never been studied and these permits don't address PolyMet's real plan."

Aaron Klemz, the director of public engagement for the center said PolyMet's new plan, which was submitted in March "changed the way they would do mining operations."

"It's not just the size of it, not just the fact of a potential change, the permit is not looking at the revised version."

This is the penultimate step before a final decision on the permits will be made. The EPA now has 45 days to look over and send back the revised permit to the PCA, however it can issue a decision before then.

The air and water permits are two of more than 20 that PolyMet needs before it can begin construction. One of those includes a wetlands replacement permit, a water appropriations permit, and permit to mine from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which is still pending.