Before any mining project can get under way, it must go through a formal environmental review and permits process. At PolyMet Mining, we have worked with state and federal agencies for nearly 10 years to show our copper-nickel mining project will meet Minnesota’s environmental standards.

Field worker testing stream water

Environmental review process

One of the main purposes of environmental review is to inform project decision-makers about environmental impacts and methods to minimize them. Having the environmental review as a vital part of the permit process (and vice versa) ensures permits address impacts and mitigation options.

Here are the four main environmental review steps:

  1. Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW): provides basic information about a project that may have significant environmental effects. The Responsible Government Unit (RGU), in our case, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, prepares the EAW to determine whether an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be prepared.
  2. Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): thoroughly studies a project with potential for significant environmental impacts, including evaluating alternative approaches and mitigation measures to reduce impact.
  3. Supplemental Draft EIS (SDEIS): reflects public and government agencies’ comments on the draft EIS and integrates key project improvements to minimize environmental impacts.
  4. Final EIS: addresses comments received on the supplemental draft. Federal and state agencies will use this document to make their Record of Decision (ROD) and Adequacy Decision (AD).

PolyMet’s milestones

Our team has invested more than six years and $50 million in the environmental review process. That’s because we’re committed to doing the project right and protecting Minnesota’s natural resources.

Here are some highlights from our journey:

  • 2004: PolyMet started EAW process.
  • 2005: Minnesota DNR and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed the EAW Final Scoping Decision, providing the blueprint for the draft EIS.
  • 2006: The Minnesota DNR and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began development of the EIS.
  • 2009: Completion of the draft EIS.
  • 2009 – 2010: Draft EIS public review and comment stage.
  • Today: Federal, state and cooperating agencies are preparing a supplemental draft EIS.
  • Dec. 6: Supplemental draft EIS public review and comment stage begins.

Projected timeline and next steps

  • Mid 2014: Taking comments into consideration, state and federal agencies will complete the final EIS, from which they will base their ROD and AD.
  • Second half of 2014: After the ROD and AD, the agencies can issue permits and proceed with the land exchange.
  • 2015: Begin construction, pending issuing of permits and completion of land exchange.

How can you help us move to the next stage?

Here are eight actions you can take. With your support, we’ll be on our way to moving Minnesota mining forward.