MPCA draft PolyMet NorthMet Project permits open for public comment

Contact: Dave Verhasselt, 651-757-2278

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) invites the public to make comments on the agency’s draft air quality permit, draft water quality permit and draft 401 certification for the Poly Met Mining Inc., (PolyMet) NorthMet mining project. The draft permits and related support documents are on the agency’s NorthMet project webpage.

The public comment period is open Wednesday, Jan. 31 through Mar. 16, 2018. Public comments can also be given at one of two public meetings scheduled in February.

All comments received during the comment periods are considered when the MPCA decides whether to issue a permit or certification. Comments can and often do result in changes to the final permit.

Proposed NorthMet Project

The proposed NorthMet Project, located near the cities of Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt in northeastern Minnesota, would create an open pit copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals mine with stockpile areas. It would also refurbish a portion of the former LTV Steel Mining Company (LTVSMC) processing plant, construct a new hydrometallurgical facility, construct a tailings basin facility on the site of LTVSMC existing tailings facilities, and add to existing utility infrastructure and rail lines.

Before proceeding with the proposed NorthMet Mining Project, PolyMet must obtain permits from MPCA as well as other state, federal, and local permits and approvals. The steps in the permitting process are identified on the MPCA’s PolyMet webpage.

The draft air permit is a regulatory document that contains legally enforceable requirements. A permit identifies the units at each facility that generate air pollutants, details the conditions under which the facility must operate to comply with rules and regulations and, where applicable, sets limits on those emissions.

The draft water quality permit (or more formally, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System or NPDES/SDS permit) establishes specific limits and requirements to protect Minnesota's surface and groundwater quality for a variety of uses, including drinking water, aquatic life and recreation.

The draft 401 certification is a water quality certification from the state that would become a part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Section 404 permit. In the 401 certification, the state reviews the proposed activity in order to determine if it will comply with applicable water quality standards, and identifies any conditions needed to ensure compliance. If the review finds that water quality will be protected, the 401 certification is issued and the certification and conditions become part of the 404 permit.

Submitting Public Comments

The MPCA will accept comments from Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 through Friday, Mar. 16, 2018.

Starting at 9:00 a.m. on January 31, comments can be submitted online via the state’s portal for the project at polymet.mn.gov/.

Comments can also be mailed to:

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
PolyMet Draft Permit Comments
520 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul MN 55155-4194

Comments can also be given at one of two public meetings held jointly with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018
Mesabi East (Aurora-Hoyt) High School
601 N 1st St W, Aurora, MN 55705
4:00-9:00 p.m.  Open house
6:00-9:00 p.m.  Public comment forum

Thursday,  Feb. 8, 2018
DECC – Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
350 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN 55802
1:00-9:00 p.m.  Open house
6:00-9:00 p.m.  Public comment forum

Comments on the MPCA’s draft permits and certification, as well as the DNR’s draft permit to mine will be accepted at these meetings. Stenographers will be available to record oral comments offered individually and during the public comment forum. In addition, comment boxes will be available for submitting written comments and objections at the meetings and staff from both the DNR and MPCA will be available to answer questions during each open house.

In case of a weather-related cancellation, the following alternative meeting dates are established:  1) Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, Mesabi East (Aurora-Hoyt) High School – Aurora as a substitute for the scheduled Feb. 7 meeting; 2) Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, DECC – Duluth as a substitute for the scheduled Feb. 8 meeting.

The MPCA will notify the public of any cancellations or time or venue changes via GovDelivery message, press release and/or social media.