Poly Met Mining, Inc, announced Monday that the Minnesota State Court of Appeals affirmed the validity of the state’s nonferrous mining rules, rejecting a challenge from environmental groups that sought to overturn the rules after the state issued PolyMet’s Permit to Mine.

A day later, however, the court granted a request to hold a key permit previously issued for  the PolyMet mine, pending investigation on procedural irregularities.

In its unanimous decision Monday, the three-judge panel recounted the history of the Department of Natural Resources’ nonferrous mining rules, emphasizing the decade of “study and rulemaking proceedings” that led to their adoption, PolyMet said in a news release. The court agreed with the DNR that “flexible reclamation rules are necessary to accommodate the variety of conditions at proposed mine sites” and endorsed the DNR’s authority to establish reclamation standards and “deny a permit . . . if reclamation standards cannot be met.”

“Once again the Court of Appeals has upheld the strength and validity of the State of Minnesota’s regulatory and environmental review processes. Opponents of the PolyMet NorthMet project also recently tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Legislature to approve new legislation that would have had the same effect," Jobs for Minnesota said in a written statement. “It’s unfortunate but true that investment in job-creating development projects in Minnesota today must involve calculating the costs and delays of inevitable legal challenges to regulatory decisions by well-financed opposition. Lawsuits, no matter how spurious, are now an intrinsic phase of the process, stretching out the time before people in the state can begin to experience the benefits from the project.

The case was filed in 2018 against the DNR by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. PolyMet intervened as a co-respondent to defend the rules.

“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals ruled in our favor,” said Jon Cherry, president and CEO. “Minnesota’s standards for nonferrous mining are among the strictest anywhere in the world, and we demonstrated through the extensive environmental review and permitting process that we can meet or exceed these standards.”

In the Tuesday decision, the Appeals Court sent the matter of irregularities back to District Court. It involves procedures used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"The court was particularly concerned in how the comments from the Environmental Protection Agency were withheld from the public and were not included in the agency’s records submitted to the court," the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy said in a prepared statement.

CEO Kathryn Hoffman added, "This is an extremely important ruling in light of all the problems with this key permit and the process. The Court has recognized the substantial evidence that PCA actively worked to conceal significant concerns by EPA scientists, who highlighted critical questions about PolyMet’s potential to pollute Minnesota’s waters. 

"This stay recognizes that the PolyMet mine should not be allowed to move forward while the Court takes the time necessary to get to the bottom of what happened here, and what impacts the suppression of comments has had on the underlying permit."

That matter is scheduled to be heard in Ramsey County District Court Aug. 7.