Environmental and conservation groups took the first step Nov. 8 to challenge permits for the PolyMet non-ferrous mineral mine proposal. Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and WaterLegacy formally asked Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials to stay and suspend permits that were issued last week.

They contend PolyMet wants a larger and riskier mining plan than the one the company analyzed. Opponents contend the DNR and MPCA's refusal to analyze environmental threats posed by a plan that would more than triple the scale of the mine. At a news conference last week, however, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said any future change to the plan would have to be reviewed.

In the past, PolyMet executives predicted opponents would challenge their permits through a series of lawsuits. In the Nov. 8 news release, opponents confirmed they are moving their battle to the courtroom.

"The permits issued to PolyMet last week should be suspended until the Court of Appeals rules on this appeal," opponents said in a news release. "That case is currently being briefed by all sides, and oral arguments in front of the Court of Appeals are expected in late winter or early spring of 2019." 

“Our future is at stake in this decision, the future of my generation and many generations to come,” Michael Mayou said in a prepared statement for the group Duluth for Clean Water. “PolyMet will inevitably be even larger and riskier than the DNR plan that 80,000 Minnesotans and Duluthians weighed in on.” 

“PolyMet’s permits are based on a bait-and-switch,” said Aaron Klemz of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “PolyMet didn’t show their hand on its larger mine plan until March 2018, when it was too late for the public to comment on it. The DNR and MPCA must analyze the environmental harms posed by PolyMet’s larger and even riskier mega-mine plan.” 

“This is not over,” stated Chris Knopf, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “PolyMet is circumventing the established science-based process for reviewing projects. People and communities downstream from PolyMet will suffer from the inevitable pollution.” 

“This stay request is separate from other potential challenges to the permits issued by Minnesota DNR last week, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permits sent to the EPA for review in late October. These permits are currently under review by our experts and attorneys."