Minnesota Court of Appeals suspends two PolyMet permits

The court ordered a temporary stay of a permit to mine and dam safety permits until an oral hearing scheduled Oct. 23.

PolyMet is reusing and reclaiming the former LTV Steel Mining site near Hoyt Lakes. Photo courtesy of PolyMet Mining
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A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that came Wednesday stayed two PolyMet permits pending an oral hearing in front of the court.

The court ordered a temporary stay of the permit to mine and dam safety permits until an oral hearing scheduled Oct. 23 to address the questions raised by the court. The court order, signed by Chief Judge Edward Cleary, states that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources "shall be prepared to advise the court on the status of post-permit developments, including its evaluation of the Brunadinho dam failure and its consideration of whether Glencore will be added as a co-permittee."

Glencore became a majority shareholder of PolyMet in June , owning almost 72% of PolyMet's common shares. The court order states that those who oppose the PolyMet project have raised "substantial issues" and that the NorthMet project could cause "irreparable harm" and staying the permits would protect the public interest.

The environmental groups that oppose the project raised concerns that the DNR did not fully review the Brumadinho dam failure in Brazil, where a tailings dam collapsed in January sending 11.7 million cubic meters of toxic mining waste downstream, killing more than 200 people, according to the New York Times .

"As the Court of Appeals stated, the DNR needs to conduct a full-scale review of the connection between the Brumadinho dam collapse and PolyMet's dam, and also needs to fully review whether Glencore should be added to the permit," said Aaron Klemz, spokesman for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. "With three permits suspended and three investigations ongoing, it's time for Gov. (Tim) Walz to take this matter seriously and tell his DNR to hold public hearings to ensure that Minnesotans are protected."


PolyMet also had its national pollutant discharge elimination system, or NPDES, permit, which regulates water discharged from industrial activities, placed on hold in August by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. PolyMet spokesperson Bruce Richardson said in a statement emailed to the News Tribune, that they are disappointed in the court's decision.

"We are confident that the post-permit questions that led to the temporary stay lack merit," PolyMet spokesperson Bruce Richardson said in a statement emailed to the News Tribune.

Richardson said the DNR already issued a detailed decision addressing questions about the Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil listing differences between that dam and PolyMet's proposed dam, including that the Brumadinho dam was located on the side of a mountain, whereas PolyMet's dam is located on relatively flat, more stable ground.

"Based on these factors, and its independent review of the dam's stability, the DNR concluded that the information concerning the Brumadinho dam did not warrant any changes to its permitting decision," Richardson said.

Adelle Whitefoot is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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