MN Supreme Court suspends wastewater permit for NorthMet mine

Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 2:48 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, MN. (Northern News Now) - The Minnesota Supreme Court suspended a key permit for a northern Minnesota copper-nickel mine.

On Wednesday, the court suspended a wastewater permit for the NorthMet project near the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCA).

The permit involves a copper-nickel mine originally proposed near Babbitt by PolyMet, which is now NewRange.

According to the decision, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) did not fully consider the mine’s threat to water quality.

“We conclude there are danger signals suggesting that the MPCA did not take a hard look at whether the permit complies with the Clean Water Act (CWA) and that the MPCA did not genuinely engage in reasoned decision-making in dealing with concerns that were raised by the EPA,” the ruling reads.

NewRange released the following statement after the decision:

“The decision primarily concerned confirming the permitting issues raised between and among the various governmental entities are appropriately addressed and documented in a public process. The Court recognized that the permit may be protective of the state, tribal, and federal waters, and will improve water quality in key areas. NewRange is confident that the additional proceedings will confirm the project protects water quality for all and welcomes working with stakeholders on the permit.

As designed, the NorthMet Project will employ the most advanced and protective water treatment technology of any mining project in the history of the State of Minnesota. For example, the NorthMet Project is believed to be the only industrial, commercial, or municipal operator in Minnesota to commit to and demonstrate that it can meet the state’s strict water quality standards for the protection of wild rice. The wild rice standard for sulfate is 10mg/l. By comparison, the drinking water standard for sulfate is 250 mg/l.”

This decision comes as another setback to NewRange’s proposed mine.

The mine suffered a significant setback in June when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revoked its federal wetlands permit.

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