Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announced that his stance on the proposed PolyMet Mine has shifted to being in favor of the project from being “genuinely undecided” on the proposed copper and nickel mine in northern Minnesota.
Dayton has been neutral on the project during his term as governor, but after many talks he said he now feels comfortable that the project can proceed safely under the proposed plans.
“PolyMet is one where I think the risk is worth (the reward) and the protections that we are building in — both … environmentally and financially — will be sufficient,” the governor told the Pioneer Press. “They’ll be controversial but that’s where I come down on the side of jobs and environmental protection. I think we’ve found a way to make them compatible.”
The proposed mine is undergoing the permitting process and that process may not be completed before Dayton’s term ends, but his support for the project is a win for PolyMet as it works to get the project into production.
“Nothing of that magnitude is risk free but I think it’s a risk worth taking and I support the project,” the Dayton said in a recent interview with the Pioneer Press. “But they still have to meet the environmental permitting requirements.”
Many along the economically stressed Iron Range have long-backed PolyMet’s plans for the openpit mine’s promise of 360 permanent jobs and a revitalized mining industry.
But environmental and conservation interests have said the project could lead to environmental disaster in an area that has long valued its outdoors recreation.
The project has been studied for more than a decade and is still undergoing scrutiny. Dayton’s declaration that he supports the project does not negate or short-circuit that ongoing permitting examination. Several state agencies are currently examining the proposed mine.
“I don’t interfere with those determinations,” Dayton said.
Even if the state gives Polymet the final approval, lawsuits could continue to lengthen the process. And if it survives that, the plans would take even more time to become fully operational.
The governor also said that he is working with officials to pin down the final financial assurances for the state if PolyMet goes bankrupt or has other fiscal issues, so that the state would be kept safe. Dayton said he had a meeting last week on some of those details.
But Dayton said he is comfortable with the project going forward.