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Final public hearing Tuesday night over PolyMet copper mine proposal

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The last of three public meetings to discuss the environmental review of the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mining project in northern Minnesota is set for Tuesday night at the RiverCentre in St. Paul, the Pioneer Press reports.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service will once again host the meeting in order to get input from the public on a 2,200 page environmental impact statement that was released last month.

More than 1,000 people attended a five-hour public hearing in Duluth earlier this month, and a second meeting in Aurora last week drew about 650 people.

PolyMet wants to mine copper, nickel and precious metals over a 20-year period at a site near Babbitt, and establish a processing site near of Hoyt Lakes. Proponents say the project would yield huge economic benefits in the region, since the Canadian company says it would invest $650 million and generate 300-360 jobs over the two decades.

Detractors fear the negative impact the operation might have on the environment. They say the threat of acidic mine runoff, along with sulfate and heavy metal water pollution, is too great, and taxpayers would be stuck with the bill for cleanup.

The final hearing comes after new data emerged last week that may delay the project for months.

According to the Star Tribune, the information indicates that some of the major assumptions used in the analysis may be three times too low, throwing off many of the conclusions about the mine’s potential impact on water.

Tuesday's hearing in St. Paul starts with an open house at 5 p.m. The program and public comment period starts at 6:45 p.m.

The public comment period on the proposed PolyMet project is scheduled to end March 13.

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