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Virginia backing PolyMet project important; other cities must act

Mesabi Daily News
November 23, 2008

We are pleased to see Virginia's mayor and city councilors go on the record forcefully in support of the PolyMet copper/nickel/precious metals mining project slated for the former LTV Mining Co. site near Hoyt Lakes.

It is crystal clear that environmental groups have a strategy of putting up road blocks to nonferrous mining projects with hopes that delay, delay and more delay will tire supporters of the ventures and force investors who are putting up multi-millions of dollars to walk away.

Their next effort in that direction is the 2009 legislative session. As reported in the Mesabi Daily News last Monday, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership has approved the application of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to make opposition to the PolyMet project specifically, and other possible future nonferrous projects such as Franconia Minerals on Birch Lake near Babbitt generally, a legislative target issue.

And that begins now, more than a month before the session starts. A bill will be ready to be put in the legislative hopper on Day 1 in early January of Session 2009.

A spokesman for the environmental groups has said that the word "prohibit" nonferrous mining in Minnesota was only in a draft document of the game plan for the legislative session. He said the goal is to get more regulation and tougher restrictions on the sulfide mining projects to ensure the environment is protected. But there are already plenty of those safeguards in place. And we believe the word "prohibit" made it into the draft nine-page game plan because that was the intent. You can work to "prohibit" certain projects in different ways, including by through delay in the legislative and judicial processes.

Private investors so far have remained steadfast behind the PolyMet project. But patience is not limitless – especially considering there has already been more than 4 1/2 years of environmental review just on the PolyMet project.

We find it outrageous that while the Legislature may face a $4 billion-plus deficit shortfall to deal with in the upcoming session, lawmakers will also be debating a bill with the aim to block a project that would create 400 permanent jobs, at least 500 spin-off jobs and 1 million hours of construction work. The state cannot just print money. Only business and jobs will produce the revenue needed to run state government.

Officials with PolyMet and other nonferrous mining projects need the strong public support of Iron Range citizens and their local elected representatives. We hope other government entities in the area – whether it be city councils, school boards or the county board – do as the Virginia City Council did and state that support with clarity and determination.

Pawlenty should move Polymet project ahead

Duluth News Tribune
November 17, 2008

Congratulations to Essar Steel Minnesota LLC as it continues to move forward on its mine, concentration plant, pellet plant and on-site steel mill. Thanks to Gov. Tim Pawlenty for attending the groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 10 and helping the company, local officials and community celebrate success.

However, one comment in the News Tribune about the event was troubling. The article indicated Gov. Pawlenty "observed that despite recent economic trials in the national and regional levels, plans for major mining developments on the Iron Range continue to march forward." While this is fortunately true for most of the deserving projects, I'm not sure it was true for Polymet. I say this because Polymet seems to be on an indefinite holding pattern as it waits for word on whether its environmental impact statement process can continue.

Gov. Pawlenty could please get the Polymet project moving forward, too. Three years of dealing with the EIS and five years of planning are unfair and unreasonable. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has done its job and all the information needed is available. Polymet's time has come.

Richard Ronning

Hoyt Lakes

The writer is a city councilor for the city of Hoyt Lake

Non-ferrous mining projects targeted

Mesabi Daily News
November 16, 2008

The conflict in St. Paul last legislative session over non-ferrous mining was but a small skirmish. Environmental groups have made it clear that the real battle will begin in January when session 2009 begins.

Imposing tougher restrictions on copper/nickel/precious metals mining projects on the Iron Range is a high legislative priority of several environmental groups that gather under the umbrella of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. And they plan to have a bill ready for introduction when the session begins the first week of January.

The MEP board met last week and approved the application of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to make opposition to non-ferrous mining a major initiative of the group. The other two applications accepted dealt with energy issues, said Gary Botzek, a Twin Cities lobbyist who is under contract with the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

On page seven of the nine-page application, it says that legislation would seek to "prohibit" the PolyMet $602 million mining project that is slated for the footprint of the former LTV Mining Co. site near Hoyt Lakes.

"The primary challenge is that the legislation that will be proposed would directly prohibit the PolyMet Mining Corp. proposal and is opposed by corporate interests with large pockets and powerful Iron Range legislators."

But Botzek said the word prohibit was only in the draft application and would not be part of any legislation.

"If that was the case I wouldn't have taken this job," he said. "That has been modified. We never, at the highest level, talked about a prohibition."

Botzek said the main concern of environmental groups is treatment of surface or ground water at any point of discharge following closure of the mine.

But Frank Ongaro, executive director of MiningMinnesota, said the state already has regulations and safeguards for non-ferrous operations.

"Regulatory agencies have all the restrictions in place so that mining can be done in an environmentally responsible manner. People need not take the industry's word for it, but should talk with state regulators and the agencies that will be overseeing these operations (Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency).

"The industry continues to educate all groups in the state of Minnesota. A variety of environmental groups have been up and learned about these projects. They are solid from an economic and environmental standpoint," Ongaro said.

PolyMet officials cite more than 4 1/2 years of environmental review already for the project, which officials estimate would create 400 permanent jobs, at least 500 spin-off jobs, more than 1.5 million man hours of construction work, $40 million annually in payroll and $17 million annually in state and local taxes. And they point to complete transparency for the public on all details of the project, which is financed by private investors.

MEP is made up of 80 to 100 conservation and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League, Save Lake Superior Association and Northeastern Minnesotans For Wilderness. And, according to the application document, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness believe they have a friend in the United Steelworkers on this issue.

"During the January 2009 legislative hearing, the United Steelworkers testified that they would support legislation that would prohibit perpetual treatment (of water) in Minnesota. After the 2008 election, MEP members will follow up with the United Steelworkers and other interested groups to solidify their support."

The nine-page application lays out a detailed game plan over a two-year period targeting non-ferrous mining projects on the Iron Range, and by name zeroes in on PolyMet and Franconia Minerals, which would be an underground mine project on Birch Lake near Babbitt.

"One strip mining proposal from the PolyMet mining company is in the advanced stages of environmental review," the application says, pointing out that the Environmental Impact Statement for the project should be released in the winter of 2008/2009.

"Immediately following the PolyMet proposal, Minnesotans will see a plan from the Franconia Minerals Corporation to extract metals by tunneling underneath Birch Lake (a lake that flows into the Boundary Waters Wilderness)."

"We hope to get the best balancing act as possible, that's why it was modified so that prohibition was not left in," said Botzek. He added that there is a need to strengthen state statutes and give the state more authority.

Here's a synopsis of the MEP timetable on the issue:

November and December:

• Capitalize on the forthcoming PolyMet EIS by submitting opinion pieces and encouraging reporters to cover the issue.

• Draft legislation and identify authors and co-authors.

• MEP cluster members and supporting organizations will work to generate letters to the editor in Greater Minnesota related to the need to address perpetual treatment of sulfide mining.

January to March:

• Continue to capitalize on media opportunities.

• Introduce legislation.

• Continue lobbying efforts of targeted committee members.

April and May:

• Work with committee chairs and legislative supporters to push the bill through the committee process; develop vote counts in relevant committees and House and Senate floors as necessary.

• Engage citizens who lobbied at the Capitol in January through March to follow up their targeted representatives and senators and to develop letters to the editors in local papers in targeted districts.

The game plan also talks about the second year of the two-year legislative biennium that begins in January.

"Because this bill represents a new and somewhat controversial idea, it is likely that passage of legislation may require both years of the biennium.

However, the effort will produce a range of intermediate benefits (public attention, legislative scrutiny and debate, media coverage etc.) that could dramatically influence the outcome of Senator (Amy) Klobuchar's federal legislation (on a land exchange for PolyMet) as well as DNR decisions related to the PolyMet EIS and permit to mine."

The game plan also identifies legislators that would be supportive and possible sponsors of the legislation – all DFLers: Reps. Alice Hausman of St. Paul, Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis and Bill Hilty of Finlayson; Sens.

Patricia Torres-Ray and Scott Dibble, both of Minneapolis.

It also identifies DFL Iron Range lawmakers as those who would be opposed to the legislation, "…including fierce opposition from Rep. David Dill (Crane Lake) and Rep. Tom Rukavina (Virginia)."

Time for state to let Polymet facility proceed

Duluth News Tribune
November 6, 2008

Everyone has experienced that one nightmare flight with one delay after another. The airline staff does its best to reassure us everything is being done to get us on our way as soon as possible, but we still get upset. We want to get where we want to go, and we can't quite understand why the flight didn't leave at 2:17 p.m. when it was supposed to. Rationally, we know that things can and will go wrong, and the airline is doing its best to serve us. In the end, a couple of hours one way or another is not that big of a deal, normally, as long as we get there safe and sound.

Now let's take the case of Polymet and its efforts to launch a copper, nickel and precious metals mining and processing facility using the property and much of the plant of the former LTV Steel Mining Co. Polymet has been waiting for almost five years for its flight. However, the flight schedule keeps changing and changing and changing. Actually, the company hasn't even been issued its ticket yet and doesn't know if it can count on the latest schedule on its Environmental Impact Statement moving forward.

We knew that coming up with new regulations for nonferrous mining would take time but enough is enough. Regardless of how anyone feels about Polymet and mining in general, don't they think enough time and effort has been put into coming to a conclusion? Is this amount of time going be fair to anyone?

Please, state of Minnesota, the Polymet folks deserve an answer. The state has done its due diligence in a professional manner and it's now time for final boarding. It's time to let Polymet proceed.

Robert Ross

Hoyt Lakes

The writer is a city councilor for the city of Hoyt Lakes.

PolyMet agreement helps with financing

Mesabi Daily News
November 1, 2008

HOYT LAKES – PolyMet Mining Corp. announced Friday completion of "strategic" agreements with Glencore AG, of a $50 million loan exchangeable with PolyMet shares at $4 a share.

The move will help the fledgling nonferrous mining company with financing at a crucial time when its draft environmental impact statement is due out and, nationally and globally, credit has tightened.

The agreements include Glencore buying PolyMet's production of metals, concentrates or intermediate output for the first five years; secured debentures totaling $50 million will be issued and will bear interest, secured by company assets; debentures can be exchanged for common shares of PolyMet stock. Several subconditions depending on repayment rates and stock prices are included in the terms. 0002000006080000032A�¿�602,A debenture usually is unsecured debt backed by the integrity of the borrower, not by collateral. However, the PolyMet statement noted the debentures are secured by its assets.

Stephen Rowland of Glencore has been appointed to PolyMet's board of directors. Glencore, of Stamford, Conn., is one of the largest global suppliers raw materials and commodities to industrial customers.

A total of $7.5 million of the debentures were issued Friday, with another $17.5 million to issued subject to a number of conditions and expenditures. The funds will be used for vital engineering and the final EIS for PolyMet's project. PolyMet is looking to start up the state's first nonferrous mining operation, to produce copper, nickel and precious metals like palladium and platinum.

The other half of the debentures, $25 million, will be "used for primarily for detailed engineering and procurement,'' PolyMet said in a statement, after publication of the project's final EIS in Minnesota's Environmental Quality Board Monitor, along with other conditions.

Glencore has been issued warrants to buy 6.25 million common shares of PolyMet stock. Glencore would hold 18.75 million shares of PolyMet stock under the agreement, making up at least 10 percent of PolyMet's issued capital.

PolyMet is looking to obtain permits to begin production. It owns the Erie Plant, the former LTV Mining complex near Hoyt Lakes, and expects to require a million hours of construction labor. About 400 long-term jobs are expected to be created once production starts.