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MN Supreme Court Ruling Halts PolyMet Project

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PolyMet's proposed copper-nickel mine for northeastern Minnesota had been under review for more than a decade before it became ensnared in a legal fight over permits and hearings. (Adobe Stock)
PolyMet's proposed copper-nickel mine for northeastern Minnesota had been under review for more than a decade before it became ensnared in a legal fight over permits and hearings. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
April 29, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Environmental advocates say they're breathing a temporary sigh of relief after the Minnesota Supreme Court weighed in on a controversial mining project, but the company involved said the ruling benefits their case as well.

At issue is the proposed PolyMet project, which would be the first copper mine in the state, and would be set along the Iron Range.

The court sent the issue back to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), saying the agency needs to hold a contested hearing on the proposal.

Aaron Klemz, director of public engagement at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said they're hopeful the delay will convince the state to ultimately abandon the mine.

"And we should be working together toward getting economic development that doesn't harm our water," Klemz asserted.

As part of the ruling, the court also reversed a critical permit for the project, noting the state did not set an end date for the mine. Despite the ruling, PolyMet issued a statement, pointing out the review will not cover the many broad topics opponents were pressing.

Klemz noted his group and other opponents want the governor and the DNR to expand the scope of the contested hearing amid the delay. He urged residents who are concerned about the project to apply pressure.

"We need a full, fair and fact-based hearing about this proposal," Klemz stressed.

The court said even though the DNR did not hold a contested hearing ahead of time, it did not abuse its discretion by declining to hear arguments over all the topics because it presented firm enough evidence to back its conclusions on PolyMet.

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