A revised draft of the environmental review for the first-ever copper mining project proposed in Minnesota has been completed. PolyMet Mining Corp.’s new document has been distributed to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tribal governments, and other state and federal agencies which are involved in the process.
The release comes almost three years after it was announced that a supplemental EIS would be prepared to address problems identified by the EPA, conservation groups, and others in the original Draft EIS.
Kathryn Hoffman, a staff attorney at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, told Minnesota Public Radio News, “We’ll be looking not only at how they design the site, and the mitigation measures they want to propose, and the environmental measures they want to implement, such as water treatment and water collection. But we’ll also be looking at how do they deal with potential failures at the site.”
One of the biggest problems with the mine proposal identified in the original Draft EIS was the issue of perpetual water treatment. Because contaminated runoff is anticipated at the site for centuries or longer, the company has suggested it might need to operate wastewater treatment facilities for many years after mine closure.
In a statement about the news, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness said the group will closely examine the new Draft EIS when it’s available, and pay particular attention to the water treatment issue. Executive Director Paul Danicic said, “Minnesota should insist PolyMet meet existing environmental standards, including requiring that the mine is maintenance free at closure. This means not having to treat the water – forever.”
After the review by cooperating agencies, the document is expected to be released to the public later this summer.
For an in-depth look at the issue of new mine proposals in Minnesota, see the recent Wilderness News article.