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Hundreds expected at Duluth hearing on controversial copper mine proposal

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Hundreds of people, perhaps as many as 1,000, are expected in Duluth Thursday night for a Department of Natural Resources public hearing on a controversial copper-nickel mine proposal in northern Minnesota, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

Known as the Northmet mine, PolyMet wants to mine copper, nickel and precious metals over a 20-year period at a site north of Hoyt Lakes.

The hearing, scheduled to take place at the 1,500-person capacity Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, will begin with a two-hour informational open house, followed by an open microphone for comments. Officials have set aside up to three hours for people to express their opinions.

Proponents of the project laud the economic benefits it would bring to the region. PolyMet says it would invest $650 million into the project and expects it to generate 300 to 360 jobs over 20 years.

Opponents, however, worry about the potential damage to the environment, including its effects on water quality and wildlife habitat.

A long-awaited, 2,200-page environmental impact study on the project was released last month, the Star Tribune reports.

Copper-nickel mines have a long legacy of destruction in other states, the paper says, and taxpayers have had to spend millions of dollars to clean up streams and rivers across the country.

The Mesabi Daily News says a caravan of seven buses is headed to the hearing, and more than 500 people will walk united in support of the project.

In addition to the open mic, people will be able to provide written comments to the state DNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service, the Daily News says. They will also be able to make statements in verbal form for stenographers.

The Associated Press says similar hearings are set to take place in Aurora on Jan. 22 and St. Paul on Jan. 28.

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