Key Coverage of the PolyMet Environmental Review Release

PolyMet SDEIS coverThe long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the PolyMet copper-nickel mine proposal in northern Minnesota was released last Friday. The publication of the 2,169-page document by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources initiates a 90-day public review and comment period.

In a news release, DNR commissioner Tom Landwehr said, “The DNR and other agencies have used their most objective and best scientific expertise to review this project. Now we need all interested parties to give us their comments.”

The review is being watched by many individuals, organizations and media outlets. Below is a round-up of some of the key coverage and conversation so far. The public can read the document and submit comments to the DNR on its website. Public hearings on the document will be held January 16 in Duluth, January 22 in Aurora, and January 28 in St. Paul.

In-depth in advance

Several news organizations published long articles previewing the proposal and the controversy last week in advance of the DEIS release:

Al Jazeera America: Seeking copper, Canada’s PolyMet offers Minnesota jobs and water pollution
“’What we’re seeing with the PolyMet proposal is kind of like their Match.com profile,’” says Betsy Daub, policy director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “’They’re going to put their best face forward, and their best face is 500 years of water pollution.’” Continue reading…

Minnesota Public Radio: PolyMet copper-nickel mine: Economic opportunity or too environmentally risky?
“At the processing site, the company would build a “cut-off wall” along part of its tailings basin, all the way down to the bedrock, to capture water and pump it to a second water treatment plant. Polymet’s engineers devised the plan after the company’s original plan was sharply criticized when the project’s initial draft environmental impact statement was released in 2009. Both water treatment plants would purify water using a process called “reverse osmosis” in an effort to meet the state’s sulfate standard for wild rice.” Continue reading…

Associated Press: Updated PolyMet environmental review to fuel debate over copper-nickel mining in Minnesota
“’To me the biggest thing is this whole question about 500 years of pollution for 20 years of jobs,’ said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota, one of several groups campaigning against the project. ‘The people of Minnesota really need to be part of a conversation and decide for themselves if that’s a good deal. And it doesn’t sound like one to me.’” Continue reading…

Star Tribune: Before open pit copper mine opens in northern Minnesota, the expansion debate has started
“If state officials approve the initial project late next year, the company is likely to seek a second mining permit from the state within six months because a larger operation would double or triple the value of PolyMet Mining’s stock, said Wayne Atwell, one of the analysts who wrote a report issued this week by Edison Investment Research. The report, commissioned by PolyMet, projects that daily ore production would increase from 32,000 to 90,000 tons per day.” Continue reading…

Duluth News Tribune: PolyMet faces big step, but copper mine not yet guaranteed
“Despite the progress, however, PolyMet already is pushing back part of the project. At least initially after the mine opens, the copper and nickel concentrate won’t be refined in Minnesota. Instead, after basic processing in the old LTV plant, the ore will be moved by train to smelters, probably in Ontario, Utah or Arizona, company officials said. The $450 million doesn’t include a so-called hydrometallurgical processing center PolyMet plans to build later.” Continue reading…

Star Tribune: State releases long-awaited impact statement for PolyMet mine, opens public comment period
The tribes and their technical experts disagree, for example, about the DNR’s predictions that the open pit mine will not increase mercury levels in nearby rivers. They say the state did not sufficiently consider the cumulative impacts of the mine in conjunction with other major environmental problems in the St. Louis River watershed, where the site is located. They question why the company and the state did not explore making it an underground mine, which would have reduced environmental risks.” Continue reading…

Out in the Wild

When the document was released on Friday, a few key details about the proposal emerged. The DNR held a press conference and the media and environmental groups responded:

Duluth News Tribune: PolyMet environmental review goes public
“At some point in 2014 the agencies will make a decision on whether the environmental review is ‘adequate’ or not — whether it has covered all potential environmental impacts. If so, the company then will move into the permitting stage, seeking about a dozen different permits for state and federal agencies to start mining, drain wetlands and other actions.” Continue reading…

MPR: Water treatment a central question in PolyMet’s environmental study
“The environmental impact statement on PolyMet Mining’s plans assumes water would be treated for 200 years at the mine site and 500 years at the plant site. But Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials, who prepared the document along with several federal agencies and tribal groups, said it isn’t known how long treatment could be needed.” Continue reading…

Star Tribune: State releases long-awaited impact statement for PolyMet mine, opens public comment period
“Environmental groups immediately challenged that interpretation. Deep in the thousands of pages of supporting documents are modeling data that show ‘they cannot find a scenario in which water treatment will no longer be necessary,’ said Kathryn Hoffman, an attorney with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, a nonprofit environmental law firm. Continue reading…

Twitter’s Take

From live-tweeting the DNR press conference to a few notable reactions, social media has hosted a lot of conversation about the proposal and its predicted pollution:






Weighing in

Over the weekend and kicking off the week, opinions started to emerge from editorial boards to private citizens:

Star Tribune business columnist Lee Schafer: PolyMet mine report has a giant hole in it
“It’s baffling that over a decade into the project’s evolution, the public still knows next to nothing about the financial assurance provision. It’s hardly trivial, given that the proposed mining and processing operation could require the treatment of water for more than 500 years.” Continue reading…

St. Cloud Times: Turn your attention to PolyMet
“Dominating the rewards are likely 20 or 30 years of jobs and economic growth, mostly for the economically challenged Iron Range. Should PolyMet’s efforts prove successful, a dozen or so other companies stand ready to seek mining permits, furthering that growth and undoubtedly creating trickle-down growth across the state.

“On the risks side, though, there are grave (well-documented) concerns about what this kind of mining does to Mother Nature. And that is PolyMet’s biggest challenge: Proving beyond any doubt the mine and its aftermath won’t forever contaminate the environment.

“For now, this board has its doubts.” Continue reading…

Aaron Brown: 500 years is a very long time
“It’s hard to imagine 500 years into the present, so let’s look back 500 years into the past…” Continue reading…

Mining Truth: Have your say on the PolyMet mine plan
“The document is complex, but the choice for Minnesotans is simple: is 500 years of treating polluted water in exchange for 20 years of mining a good deal for Minnesota?” Continue reading…

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