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House Approves Faster Environmental Permitting for Minn. Businesses, Sends to Dayton

Star Tribune
February 28, 2011

The Minnesota House of Representatives has approved a bill that aims to speed up environmental reviews and permits for businesses and sent it to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled House 87-44 on Monday. A number of Democrats objected to a provision that allows businesses to commission their own draft environmental reviews. Rep. Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis likened it to letting the fox guard the henhouse.

Supporters say the bill sends a business-friendly message. It sets a goal for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources to rule on permit applications within 150 days.

Gov. Mark Dayton already implemented several provisions of the bill by executive order. He said at a news conference Monday he needed a few days to review the legislation before deciding if he'll sign it.

House passes permitting bill on eve of report

Minnesota Public Radio News
Tom Scheck
February 28, 2011 

The Minnesota House voted to send Gov. Dayton a bill that would streamline the permitting process for businesses across Minnesota. The House voted to speed up environmental reviews and permits for businesses 87-44.

Supporters of the bill say it would improve the state's business climate and would require the MPCA and DNR to rule on permit applications within 150 days.

Democrats argued that it allow businesses to commissioner their own draft environmental reviews. They also complained that the House was acting on the bill one day before a comprehensive look at the state's permitting process is released. The Legislative Auditor is scheduled to release his permitting report tomorrow morning.

Gov. Dayton says he'll probably take the full three days before he decides to sign or veto the bill. He said he wants to read the Legislative Auditor's report. He also said he intends to meet with some environmental groups that have raised concerns over the bill.

Dayton has signed an executive order in January that would streamline state permitting.

News Release: Twin Metals Minnesota Names Two Vice Presidents

Twin Metals Minnesota Names Two Vice Presidents

Bob McFarlin as Vice President of Public and Government Affairs / Dan Colton as Vice President for Legal Affairs


ST. PAUL, Minnesota, Feb. 23, 2011 – Twin Metals Minnesota announced today that it has appointed Bob McFarlin as vice president of Public and Government Affairs and Dan Colton as vice president for Legal Affairs.

McFarlin brings 29 years of experience in government affairs and public relations to Twin Metals.  A Minnesota native, McFarlin has worked in the public and private sectors in transportation, energy, local government, education finance and general public policy.  Colton adds more than 25 years of experience in law and science to the Twin Metals project.  Colton has extensive experience in environmental regulation and risk management, natural resources, mining and mineral law and business and regulatory transactions.

"The addition of Bob and Dan strengthens our executive leadership team and will help move the Twin Metals Project forward in the state," said Andres Morel, CEO Twin Metals Minnesota.  "Bob adds an extensive background in communications and public policy with a firm understanding of the political environment in Minnesota. Dan is a proven leader in working with federal, state and local authorities for mineral exploration and mine development.  We are thrilled to welcome Bob and Dan to our team."

Prior to joining Twin Metals, McFarlin was a vice president in the corporate, community and public affairs practice in the Minneapolis-St. Paul office of Weber Shandwick.  From 2003-2008, McFarlin served as assistant commissioner for policy and public affairs at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT). McFarlin was appointed acting commissioner of Mn/DOT by Governor Tim Pawlenty in February 2008. Earlier in his career, McFarlin served as president of MCF Consulting Group, a public relations and public affairs consulting firm. He spent time as the executive director to the Board of Trustees at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and director of public affairs and chief of staff at Mn/DOT.  McFarlin holds a master's degree in speech communication and bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Prior to joining Twin Metals, Colton practiced law for 20 years as a partner at the Minneapolis law firm of Leonard, Street and Deinard.  During this time, Colton represented a wide range of clients on issues relating to mineral rights, property due diligence/joint venture work, federal, state and private mineral leases, environmental review, and federal and state environmental permitting.  Colton's practice also included complex environmental civil litigation.  Prior to obtaining his law degree, Colton worked for five years with International Technology Corporation providing consulting services to the environmental and nuclear waste industry.  Colton holds a Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law, a master of science degree in geochemistry/mineral exploration from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and a bachelor's degree in geology/chemistry from St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York.

The Twin Metals mining project is currently in environmental baseline studies and entering prefeasibility analysis. As the project progresses and permits are granted, Twin Metal will create a large number of construction, engineering, operation and long-term mining jobs for generations of Minnesotans, along with hundreds of ancillary jobs.

About Twin Metals Minnesota LLC
Twin Metals Minnesota, LLC, is a joint venture involving partners Duluth Metals Limited and Antofagasta PLC. Announced in Jan. 2010, Twin Metals was formed to pursue the development and operation of a copper, nickel and platinum group metals (non-ferrous) mining project in northeastern Minn.

For more information on Duluth Metals Limited: http://www.duluthmetals.com/s/Home.asp

For more information on Antofagasta PLC: http://www.antofagasta.co.uk/home.html

 

 

Twin Metals Minnesota Launches Website

WDIO
February 16, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, Feb. 16, 2011 – Twin Metals Minnesota (Twin Metals) today announced the launch of their corporate website, http://www.twin-metals.com/.

As a company currently engaged in developing copper, nickel and platinum group metals deposits in Northeastern Minnesota, Twin Metals created the website to introduce the company, the project and provide information on strategic metals mining.

"It's exciting to launch the Twin Metals website and create an additional communications channel to the Iron Range community and the state of Minnesota," said J. Andres Morel, CEO of Twin Metals. "We invite all to visit the website early and often for updates on our ongoing operations."

The Twin Metals website will offer the following features to users:

Source for the latest Twin Metals news

Education of the mining process

Positive socioeconomic impacts the project will have on the region and state

Resource to contact Twin Metals and subscribe for updates

Shared images and videos

The Twin Metals mining project is currently in environmental baseline studies and entering prefeasibility analysis. As the project progresses and permits are granted, Twin Metal will create a large number of construction, engineering, operation and long-term mining jobs for generations of Minnesotans, along with hundreds of ancillary jobs.

About Twin Metals Minnesota LLC

Twin Metals Minnesota, LLC, is a joint venture involving partners Duluth Metals Limited and Antofagasta PLC. Announced in Jan. 2010, Twin Metals was formed to pursue the development and operation of a copper, nickel and platinum group metals (non-ferrous) mining project in northeastern Minn.

MPCA head: Agency will make progress despite 11 pct. cut

Minnesota Public Radio
Stephanie Hemphill
February 15, 2011
 

St. Paul, Minn. – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says even with an 11 percent reduction in funding, it will be able to make progress on key issues under Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal.

MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said the MPCA is also moving to streamline its permitting process. If federal cuts add significantly to state cuts, it will be harder to fulfill the agency's mission, he said.

He says the agency will be able to absorb the reduction through normal turnover and early retirements, even as the PCA works to streamline its permitting processes.

The agency will give priority to new projects and expansions that create jobs, he said , and that means existing businesses may operate longer under expired permits — but they have to maintain the same conditions as required in their old permit.

"So it's not as if we're reducing environmental protection, we're just prioritizing where we're making the first steps forward," he said.

The MPCA budget includes $1.5 million to begin research on the impact of sulfates on wild rice.

Aasen said concerns about sulfates from waste rock in mining operations makes the research an urgent project.

"The fact that it's an old standard, the fact that there hasn't been much recent research, and with precious metal mining coming on line, and other issues driving the sulfates question, that we need to have a new water quality standard update," he said.

Pushing for Polymet – Range lawmakers suggest project coordinator position

Hibbing Daily Tribune
Katy Meeks
February 13, 2011

Range legislators want the governor's office to take a more active role in helping to fast-track the PolyMet mining project.

A request has been sent to Gov. Mark Dayton suggesting creation of a "project coordinator" position to oversee the process for developing PolyMet, as the company is more than ready to begin copper/nickel/precious metals nonferrous mining, according to area lawmakers.

Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, said he thinks that hiring someone who can "elevate this project on a daily basis directly in front of the governor" makes sense.

The request is a follow-up to the governor's executive order to "accelerate and simplify environmental review and permitting" made a few weeks ago.

Along with Anzelc, the request was also signed by Reps. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, and David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, as well as Sens. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids.

A spokesperson for Dayton said his office is working to set up a meeting next week with commissioners Tony Sertich of the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board, Paul Aasen of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Tom Landwehr of the Department of Natural Resources to discuss how to coordinate these issues.

The project has now received about six years of environmental review at a cost of more than $20 million. It is currently in a supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement stage, with that document slated to be completed this summer. The DNR is the lead state agency in the process, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers taking the federal lead position, and the U.S. Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency also involved.

"They're good people, they're professionals, but they are by nature slow," Anzelc said.

All these agencies hold many different tasks, but legislators think it'd be beneficial to hire one person to oversee these agencies to get things done quicker, while reporting directly to the governor.

"PolyMet is supportive of the project coordinator concept. We believe that it will help further the coordination between multiple state and federal agencies involved in the environmental review process," said LaTisha Gietzen, vice president of public, governmental and environmental affairs at PolyMet.

The $600 million-$700 million project would create 360 permanent jobs, more than 500 spin-off positions and 1.5 million hours of construction work, according to PolyMet officials.

Of the industries that contribute to the economic development of northern Minnesota, mining is very important.

"It's always been that mining is what we do and reason we're there, the demand is solid, the price is at record levels and it's time," said Anzelc.

Tomassoni sees PolyMet as a huge opportunity for the state.

"It's one of those projects that has limitless potential. Once we find out what all the possibilities are, not only immediate jobs and immediate projects will open up, but also possible spin-off jobs," he said. "We have a diamond in the rough that we need to get going as quickly as possible."

Saxhaug agrees and believes the process has been going on for too long.

"We can't let the asset of nonferrous mining go," he said.

Dill is blunt and direct in his assessment. "The time has come to move on with a permit or deny a permit, it's that simple," Dill said. "It's controversial, I understand that, but here in Minnesota we have good financial assurances and good, tight environmental regulations," he said.

Critics contend that the sulfide process holds potential for serious damage to the environment, especially the watershed.

"We believe that we can safely mine and process our ore, utilizing existing infrastructure to minimize the overall impact of the project," Gietzen said, regarding the potential environmental influence. "In addition, PolyMet will only receive the necessary permits for operation if it can adequately address state and federal environmental requirements."

The project would operate in the footprint of the former LTV Mining Co. near Hoyt Lakes, thus providing a more minimal impact on the environment, supporters contend. In addition, the sulfide from the ore mined will be recycled as an energy source for the project.

Legislators agree that the first task of the project coordinator would be to ensure development of the supplemental draft EIS by summer 2011, turning the projected timeline for startup from years to just a few months.

On Feb. 2, PolyMet announced its plan to build the project in two phases. According to Gietzen, this was not only a business decision, but also has the benefit of less overall environmental impact.

In finding a good candidate for the position, Tomassoni said it has to be somebody who understands minerals, understands government and also understands the needs of the environment.

"It won't be an easy job," he said. "We need somebody who has to actually put some time in and realize all the different aspects of what's going on here."

Anzelc said he thinks the ideal candidate requires three qualities: "A mining background, lives where we live (in Northeastern Minnesota) so they have a stake in safeguarding the environment, and also has a desire to do public service."

Taking all this time to discuss the problem is a problem according to Anzelc, because that costs money.

"Things get done when the governor thinks big," he said.

 

Duluth Metals Reports Encouraging Findings

Business North
February 13, 2011

Duluth Metals Ltd. (TSX: DM) says recent recent core samples in their Nokomis holding show significantly greater than average amounts of high-grade precious metals.

The result is bsed on 15 holes drilled by Twin Metals Minnesota.

"Drilling to better delineate the higher-grade portions of the Nokomis deposit has been very encouraging. The results from drilling have increased our confidence in the quality of grade and continuity within this zone,"

Vern Baker, president of Duluth Metals, said in a press release. "These results will allow Twin Metals to confidently evaluate a mine plan incorporating this area into early production schedules allowing for improved project economics."

Lawmakers appreciate attendees at hearing on Range

Mesabi Daily News
February 12, 2011

On behalf of the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus and our fellow committee members, we wish to thank all those who participated in and attended our joint committee hearing in Hibbing on Friday, Jan. 28.

The key to a healthy democracy is an active and engaged citizenry, and the Hibbing community should be proud of their contribution. More than 200 people attended the hearing, anxious to discuss and hear from experts how we can work together to improve the business climate, address permitting and regulatory concerns, and focus on issues specific to the mining and forestry industries.

Thanks to the hospitality of Hibbing Community College, Hibbing Taconite and Sammy's Pizza, we had a venue and the environment to successfully facilitate this discussion.

It is always a pleasure to visit and work with the people who make Minnesota one of the best places to live" our job creators. We especially thank those who took time out of their schedules to share with us their views on how we can create a better business environment.

Hibbing Taconite welcomed us into their facility and gave us a tour of the mining operation. We cannot express enough how thankful we are to the hardworking men and women that operate the facility and others like it throughout Greater Minnesota. During the committee meeting, we heard from representatives of area cities, city councils, chambers of commerce and regional industries, and we thank you for your time, your input and your testimony.

One of our main goals as legislators and policy makers is to ensure a better, brighter future for our children. We want the next generation of entrepreneurs, teachers, and innovators to grow up in a state with more opportunity for success than the previous one. Most importantly, we want those individuals to grow up, start a family and prosper right here in Minnesota.

During our hearing two dedicated students, Katie McLaughlin and Thomas Seeba, shared their desire to stay in their community and help grow or even one day start a business. We thank them for their voice and their participation. These students, and the many others we visited with, showed again why Hibbing and Minnesota has an opportunity for a bright and prosperous future.

Lastly, we want to issue a special thank you to the following people: Susan Degnan, Hibbing Community College; Craig Pagel, Iron Mining Association; Frank Ongaro, Mining Minnesota; Tony Sertich, IRRRB; and Wayne Brandt, Minnesota Forest Industries. Without the dedication and hard work of these individuals, our event would not have been possible.

In a time when families and businesses are struggling, it's important that we as a community and a state remain intensely focused on getting our private sector economy moving again.

Greater Minnesota is home to our state's largest and more productive industries. It is imperative that we do everything we can to take advantage of the opportunities for economic growth in this area. Through reforming the permitting and regulatory process and improving the overall business climate, we can and will unleash the mining, forestry and other industries to do what they do best: Create jobs and improve the quality of life in northern Minnesota.

Thank You.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel,

R-Edina

Sen. Bill Ingebrigsten, R-Alexandria

 

Copper Prices Make Range Deposit Look Good

KBJR News 1
February 4, 2011

Hibbing, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) -With growing global population, the demand for copper is increasing.

Record prices of the metal are making a deposit in Northeastern Minnesota look even more appealing.

Turn on the water. Start you're car. Talk on your cell phone.

Chances are at some point in your day, copper will be present.

"We have these metals in everything we use, every day of our lives," said Frank Ongaro with MiningMinnesota.

The increasing demand for metals like copper has driven the prices sky high.

The Iron Range is used to measuring the value of taconite, but that scale won't cut it when it comes to record copper prices.

"You value that in pennies per pound. You're talking right now over 4 dollars a pound for copper," said LaTisha Gietzen, Vice President of Public, Governmental, and Environmental Affairs with Polymet.

For a country that currently relies heavily on the importing of metals like copper, it could be beneficial that there is a hefty amount of the un-mined material, right here in Northeastern Minnesota.

"The Duluth Complex is one of the largest complexes in the world and so it draws a lot more attention when the value of copper goes up," said Gietzen.

Officials say the price of copper is cyclical and can go down.

But Polymet says they looked at the value of their project with much lower copper prices, and still came out on top.

"The last run that we did at economics is we looked at a dollar copper price and we still have a very valuable project at that lower price. You can't just decide if you have a project at $4,00 copper. You need to make sure it is sustainable for those swings," said Gietzen.

Other metals that look to be mined from the Duluth Complex include nickel, platinum and palladium, all of which can see ups and downs with their prices.

Strict environmental regulations in Minnesota are currently being looked at in an effort to speed up the permitting process for projects like Polymet to potentially get at these metals.

"The better we do that, the faster we do that, the more willingness there will be for people to start investing in this state and putting people to work with hundreds and hundreds of jobs," said Ongaro.

And while the prices may fall, officials say there is little chance the demand for these metals will go away.

"Demand for base and precious metals is growing domestically and globally and that is not going to change.," said Ongaro.

Polymet says their projected timeline calls for their supplemental draft environmental impact statement to be out this summer, with permits potentially coming in 2012.

Polymet Drops Copper Metal Production Plan

Duluth News Tribune
Steve Kuchera
February 4, 2011

PolyMet Mining Corp. announced Wednesday that it no longer plans to produce finished copper metal at its planned processing plant near Hoyt Lakes, a move that will reduce startup costs by a fifth and the number of long-term jobs by a tenth.

"It's the best decision to make at this time; it has the best overall economic return and also reduces the overall environment impact," company spokeswoman LaTisha Gietzen said Thursday.

The revised project will create about 360 long-term jobs, compared to the original estimate of 400.

Although the revised plan would create fewer jobs, Hoyt Lakes Mayor Marlene Pospeck sees a silver lining in the announcement. The construction savings and lower operating costs probably would mean the operation would be more viable and stable.

"I'm pretty much encouraged by this," she said.

PolyMet had planned to produce copper metal, nickel-cobalt hydroxide and precious metal precipitate products. Under the change it still will produce the last two but not copper metal, instead producing high-grade copper concentrate.

The change means the company will have to buy and install less equipment. According to the company's 2008 cost estimate, the equipment it will no longer buy accounted for about $127 million of the project's $602 million price tag. The change also will lower energy consumption and reduce waste disposal and emissions at site.

PolyMet plans to create Minnesota's first copper mine. Its proposed open-pit mine near Babbitt would produce copper, nickel, platinum and other metals. The company would process the ore at the former LTV Steel taconite plant near Hoyt Lakes.

The project is still in the Environmental Impact Statement phase. The company hopes to receive needed permits in 2012.

If built, the operation would create 360 or more jobs for about

20 years. The project has been praised by Iron Range leaders as a critical step toward diversifying the region's dependence on iron ore mining.

Critics say the company and government regulators can't be sure the mine won't cause long-term environmental problems years after mining operations cease.