PolyMet environmental review draft complete
Duluth News Tribune
December 23, 2008
A draft environmental impact statement has been completed for the proposed PolyMet copper mining project near Hoyt Lakes, but it will be several weeks before the public can see it.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' private contractor recently finished the draft, and agency officials are reviewing the huge document.
A copy of the study has been forwarded to PolyMet, the company said Monday. Stuart Arkley, DNR project manager for the PolyMet environmental review, said it will be January or later before the document is officially released to the public.
"It's significant progress that we have a completed review document from our contractor, but we're still some time from a document that is ready for public comments,'' Arkley said.
Joe Scipioni, PolyMet's president and CEO, called the document "a major milestone for PolyMet.''
"While we have been frustrated by how long it has taken to reach this milestone, we believe that the [DNR] has produced a comprehensive document that thoroughly analyzes the potential impacts of the project,'' Scipioni said in a prepared statement.
The effort to develop the document has taken more than three years and has been delayed several times, with state officials noting the complex nature of the project.
The draft is expected to make public for the first time PolyMet's detailed plans, and the state's officials response, on how to mine and process copper and handle waste rock without harming the environment. If approved and built, Polymet would be the state's first copper mining and processing operation, and the review is expected to set the standard for any additional copper projects that might follow.
The Polymet mine also would produce nickel, platinum and other valuable metals. The mine site is near Babbitt, while the company plans to use the former LTV Steel taconite plant near Hoyt Lakes as a processing center. The company says it will create 400 or more jobs for more than 20 years during mining operations.
Environmental groups have questioned PolyMet's ability to prevent sulfuric acid runoff from the mine and piles of waste rock. Because copper is locked in rock that often is high in sulfur, mining operations can release high levels of sulfuric acid when rock and waste rock is exposed to air and water, and runoff can damage streams, lakes and wetlands. Taconite, by comparison, usually is in rock with little or no sulfur.
PolyMet officials say rock at the mine site is very low in sulfur compared to other copper mines worldwide and that they will take extreme care to collect any runoff from the mine and waste rock storage areas, preventing any water pollution.
The public will have 45 days to comment on the draft environmental review once it's released.