An environmental group says the design for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota has changed in significant ways that require regulators to conduct a fresh environmental review of the revisions.
WaterLegacy says changes in the mine’s tailings basin and wastewater treatment facilities, and a new disclosure of how much water would be pumped from the mine, obligate federal and state agencies to take a closer look — a move that could cause further delays in an already long process. The group made the request in a letter (June 29) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other agencies.
Paula Maccabee, an attorney for WaterLegacy, said the plans changed between March 2016 when the DNR approved the final environmental impact statement and when PolyMet started submitting permit applications in recent months. She called it a “bait-and-switch” to cut up-front costs. She also said the changes increase the risks of a catastrophic dam failure, pollution spills and damage to wetlands.
(On June 9), Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) appealed an order of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that removed public water protections from many miles of Minnesota streams and rivers. A DNR order in April used a one size fits all approach to delete over 640 miles of waterways from Minnesota’s public water inventory with no public notice, no chance for the public to comment and with no transparency. Because there was no public input, many public waters that should be protected would lose that protection if the DNR’s order is implemented. MCEA appealed to reverse DNR’s order and protect these public waters from being filled, drained, dammed or altered without a permit.
“As we investigated waterways that DNR deleted as public waters, we were shocked to discover many weren’t private ditches, but were clearly public waters,” said Leigh Currie, Staff Attorney at MCEA. “DNR’s order, supposedly to correct mistakes, only made issues with the public waters map worse. Dozens of public waters that are not private ditches were erased incorrectly.”
(Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy)