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PolyMet, East Range celebrate release of updated EIS
PHOTO: PolyMet President and CEO Jon Cherry said the company hopes to begin construction of additional processing facilities by late 2014 or early 2015.
It’s not the end of the path, but PolyMet Mining reached a “significant milestone” Friday when an updated the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was published for public review, President and CEO Jon Cherry said during a celebration at the company’s Hoyt Lakes office.
“We are going to do this right,” he told a crowd that included East Range mayors, state legislators, business and labor officials. So far, PolyMet has invested $150 million in the project. “I can’t think of anyone who can better do this right than the people who live and work here and play here and raise their families here,” Cherry said.
“We’re at a historic moment here. It’s a big, big deal. Nobody has a personal interest in this like those of us who live and breathe up here every day of our lives. Nobody cares more about clean air and clean water and wildlife than we do, because we’re out there using it every day,” said PolyMet Chief Operating Officer Joe Scipioni. “I can’t wait to see this come to fruition.”
State and federal regulators have been working with the company to supplement its original EIS which, the Environmental Protection Agency said, needed to contain additional details. The revised document, which spans about 2,200 pages, will be discussed at public hearings in Hoyt Lakes, Duluth and St. Paul before PolyMet may construct facilities needed to begin processing copper, nickel and other precious metals.
Speakers at the company’s event stressed that PolyMet is committed to meeting all environmental regulations.
“I’m proud to be their neighbor,” said Mark Skelton, mayor of Hoyt Lakes. “We are pro mining, we are pro environment and we support good paying jobs that will support us in the years to come.”
The city has suffered in many ways since LTV closed its mine and processing plant in 2001, eliminating 1,400 jobs. Its elementary schools have closed, Skelton said, and some stores struggle to stay open.
“The good news is that we’re here today because of a company called PolyMet. They bought Erie Mining Co. – an old brownfield site right here where we stand today and said they want to recycle the old processing plant. When they leave here, they’ll leave it better than they found it,” he said.
State Sen. David Tomassoni called PolyMet “a willing participant” in a thorough environmental protection process that is closely monitored by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service and American Indian tribes.
“Anyone who thinks we aren’t serious about doing this right, making sure the environment and jobs live together – they haven’t been paying attention,” he said. “We probably have the most stringent environmental laws of any state in the nation, probably the entire world.”
The green economy, he said, couldn’t exist without non-ferrous minerals mined by companies like PolyMet.
“The green economy can’t exist without mining,” he said, noting that four tons of copper are used in large windmills, and cell phones contain 39 minerals. “Not one of them falls from the sky. It all starts with mining.”
Despite opposition by some environmentalists, precious metals mining can be done safely and properly in northern Minnesota, which is not the case in many foreign countries, added State Rep. Jason Metsa.
“If you don’t support doing things right here in our own back yard, you are supporting a 12-year-old working in a mine in a foreign country, and you support zero regulation in many of those countries that don’t have any environmental permitting processes,” he said.
“What better way to be a leader in the green economy than to mine vital minerals,” said Nancy Norr, Minnesota Power’s director of regional development. “Mining and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive.”
Speaking on behalf of Jobs for Minnesotans, a coalition of business and labor, she said PolyMet will create direct jobs, indirect jobs and fill tax coffers.
“In our view, it would be irresponsible not to mine these metals here in a state that has the strictest regulations in the world. We have trust in the process,” Norr said.
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