Two PolyMet permits suspended by Minnesota Court of Appeals
Two permits issued to PolyMet for its proposed NorthMet copper and nickel project in Northern Minnesota have been put on hold pending an oral hearing in front of the court.
The stay was put in place, in part, as a result of the Brumadinho dam failure in Brazil. Opponents of the project argued that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did not fully review that dam failure in Brazil with issuing the permit in Minnesota.
The Duluth News Tribune reported that a Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered a temporary stay of the permit to mine and dam safety permits until an oral hearing scheduled Oct. 23 to address the questions raised by the court. The court order, signed by Chief Judge Edward Cleary, states that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources "shall be prepared to advise the court on the status of post-permit developments, including its evaluation of the Brunadinho dam failure and its consideration of whether Glencore will be added as a co-permittee.”
Glencore owns nearly 72 percent of PolyMet after it became a majority shareholder of PolyMet’s common shares in June. The court order states that those who oppose the PolyMet project have raised "substantial issues" and that the NorthMet project could cause "irreparable harm" and staying the permits would protect the public interest.
The environmental groups that oppose the project raised concerns that the DNR did not fully review the Brumadinho dam failure, where a tailings dam collapsed in January sending 11.7 million cubic meters of toxic mining waste downstream, killing more than 200 people.
"As the Court of Appeals stated, the DNR needs to conduct a full-scale review of the connection between the Brumadinho dam collapse and PolyMet's dam, and also needs to fully review whether Glencore should be added to the permit," said Aaron Klemz, spokesman for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
PolyMet also had its national pollutant discharge elimination system, or NPDES, permit, which regulates water discharged from industrial activities, placed on hold in August by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. PolyMet spokesperson Bruce Richardson said in a statement emailed to the News Tribune, that they are disappointed in the court's decision.
"We are confident that the post-permit questions that led to the temporary stay lack merit," Richardson said.
Richardson said the DNR already issued a detailed decision addressing questions about the Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil listing differences between that dam and PolyMet's proposed dam, including that the Brumadinho dam was located on the side of a mountain, whereas PolyMet's dam is located on relatively flat, more stable ground.
"Based on these factors, and its independent review of the dam's stability, the DNR concluded that the information concerning the Brumadinho dam did not warrant any changes to its permitting decision," Richardson said.