fbpx 3 Big Mining Updates | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Jun 27, 2023

3 Big Mining Updates

PolyMet Permit REVOKED. Full Reset Required.


June was a major month in the ongoing PolyMet saga in Minnesota, as you may have seen. On June 6, Minnesotans learned that the US Army Corps of Engineers permanently revoked the PolyMet "Section 404" wetlands destruction permit. They did this because they found that PolyMet's mine plan would have harmed downstream waters -- including specifically the waters of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who had objected to this permit.

This may be the biggest news yet in the ongoing fight to protect Minnesota's land, water, and communities from the pollution that sulfide mining would inevitably cause. It is cause for celebration! We are proud of the work MCEA continues to do on this issue, and we are grateful for the Band's amazing work and leadership on the federal wetlands case. 

You might be wondering what this means for the PolyMet (or, as they're calling it now, NewRange Copper Nickel) proposal moving forward. In short, this is a major setback for PolyMet -- or, as our Chief Legal Officer said in the Star Tribune, effectively a complete reset. That's because the federal permit is required for PolyMet to move forward, and that permit is now revoked. Meanwhile, the state cases are still pending. PolyMet still has an application on file, and those cases are still technically live, and therefore we will continue to pursue them. It's clear though that the Army Corps' decision, the Band's position, and the EPA's recommendation are all extremely relevant to those pending cases, and all three agree that PolyMet's proposal is inadequate and would not protect downstream communities.

Talon Metals starts environmental review


Talon Metals officially entered the environmental review process this month when it submitted initial documents to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Like we said in the press release we issued to media following the announcement, MCEA will be closely reviewing the lengthy filing in the coming weeks to assess the environmental risks associated with the project while continuing to push our state leaders to prioritize alternative cleaner and safer strategies to obtain metals needed for the clean energy economy, such as metal recycling. Click here to read our press release about the proposal and how MCEA sees its role in it moving forward.

PolyMet Air permit sent back to MN court of appeals


MCEA, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and Sierra Club challenged MPCA’s failure to investigate PolyMet’s expansion plan in a January 2022 appeal. This appeal arose after the Court of Appeals remanded PolyMet’s air permit to MPCA to conduct that investigation in March 2021, but MPCA declined to do so and simply reissued PolyMet’s permit based on a presumption that PolyMet’s application was accurate. 

On June 21st, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision that reinstates MCEA’s appeal of the PolyMet air pollution permit. This decision sends the air permit appeal back to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which will now decide the merits. 

“PolyMet has, yet again, failed to limit Minnesota’s review of its flawed proposal -- this time on narrow procedural grounds," said JT Haines, Northeast Minnesota program director at MCEA. "We applaud this decision from the Supreme Court and look forward to a full review at the Court of Appeals."