PolyMet's long-simmering NorthMet mine project has been issued a key permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, paving the way for the mine's construction.
The St. Paul District, in its announcement, said it issued the individual permit late Thursday for the proposed precious metals mine on land near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt in Minnesota's Iron Range.
"This has been a very carefully weighed decision," said Col. Sam Calkins, commander of the St Paul District., in the release.
The permit allows PolyMet to discharge dredged and fill material into 901 acres, with indirect impacts to 27 acres, as part of the construction and development process.
PolyMet now holds all the permits necessary to start work, the company notes.
Jon Cherry, president and CEO, said the company is "proud to be the first mining company to be fully permitted to responsibly build and operate a copper-nickel-precious metals mine within the world-class Duluth Complex."
About the project
The project would see the refurbishment of the former LTV Steel Mining processing plant pictured above. Throughout the process, the state has had to weigh up the potential environmental impacts from the project with the boost to the economy in the state's Iron Range.
The company insists it will operate the mine responsibly over the course of its 20-year life. Mining would go as deep as 700 feet beneath the surface, and over those two decades in operation ultimately supply about 225 million tons of ore.
Plus, jobs. PolyMet estimates 360 positions at the mine, hundreds more jobs created indirectly, and $515 million in economic benefit to St. Louis County – all key factors for an Iron Range hit with layoffs and economic slowdowns in recent years.
Opponents however say it's too big of an environmental risk, no matter what precautions are taken.
Friends of the Boundary Waters, for example, argues it's a bad deal for taxpayers and the public, as the risks to nearby waters – specifically the St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and downstream communities – are too great.
Wildlife could be impacted too. That's what prompted a lawsuit from two groups, as they argued it would destroy the habitat of two threatened species – the gray wolf and the Canada lynx.