PolyMet defends mine project in Day 2 of permit hearing

Published: May. 3, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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PolyMet said in Wednesday’s hearing, the burden of proof in this situation falls on the Fond du Lac Band, since they are calling the permit into question.

Proof of what exactly? Proof that the mine would indeed cause negative impacts on the water and go against the Band’s water protections.

PolyMet said the Band doesn’t have that proof.

They said the project underwent the most extensive environmental review in Minnesota history.

That review was conducted by a number of regulatory agencies including the Minnesota DNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service.

PolyMet said that review concluded the project would not worsen water quality.

Representatives with the mining company said the project is 116 miles upstream from the nearest border of the Band’s reservation, adding that’s a long way for pollutants to travel and even if pollutants did, they would arrive diluted or would disappear before reaching the reservation.

PolyMet argued because the Band cannot prove the permitted water discharges would violate the Band’s water quality requirements, the mine’s permit should be reinstated.

Thursday is the final day of the hearing, where the public is welcomed to ask questions to the parties involved.

DULUTH, MN -- Tuesday was the first day of a hearing for PolyMet’s NorthMet mine.

The hearing is to determine whether the mine’s Section 404 Permit under the Clean Water Act should be reissued.

NorthMet’s proximity to the St. Louis River has caused concern in several groups that the runoff would contaminate the watershed.

One of those groups is the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reservation borders a roughly 20-mile stretch of the river.

Several groups are scheduled to speak during the hearing.

Tuesday, the EPA issued its recommendation against the permit being reissued as part of the hearing.

The agency argues that as the mine is currently designed, it cannot under any conditions ensure clean water that meets the Fond du Lac Band’s requirements.

EPA spokespeople also said the runoff would impact both Wisconsin and Minnesota as the river runs along the border of both states.

Representatives from PolyMet are expected to testify at the hearing in the coming days, where they’ll offer their argument on the issue.

In the meantime, PolyMet issued the following statement:

“We strongly disagree with the EPA’s recommendation. The EPA has disregarded the science-based conclusions in PolyMet’s Environmental Impact Statement and permitting decisions that we will reduce mercury and sulfate loading to the St. Louis River watershed. We will present scientific evidence and data that the EPA did not adequately consider and are confident the Corps will affirm the original conclusions by state and federal agencies that the PolyMet project will meet and exceed water quality standards, including Band standards at the Fond du Lac Band reservation located 116 river miles downstream.”

KBJR 6 will continue following the hearings in the days ahead.

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