PolyMet and Teck form joint venture to advance Minnesota projects

July 21, 2022

PolyMet Mining and Teck American will create a joint venture, NewRange Copper Nickel LLC, in an effort to advance their respective copper/nickel projects in northeastern Minnesota.

PolyMet is working to develop the NorthMet Copper Nickel project near Hoyt Lake. The company said it the deposit is home to at least 795 million tons of potentially mineable copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals while Teck’s Mesabi project contains 1,740 million tons of measured and indicated resources. The NorthMet project is the closest to becoming a reality but is still working through the complex environmental permitting process.

Swiss mining giant Glencore will retain its majority ownership of PolyMet. Teck American is a subsidiary of Canadian mining heavyweight Teck Resources.

“This extraordinary venture links the expertise, experience and financial resources of PolyMet, Teck and Glencore,” Jon Cherry, PolyMet’s CEO, said in a press statement. “With both projects representing approximately half of the known resources of Minnesota’s Duluth Complex under NewRange Copper Nickel, Minnesota emerges as a global leader and major force in developing strategic minerals to feed the North American supply chain for clean energy technologies, electric mobility and modern societal use. The total assets of the NorthMet and Mesaba deposits make this one of the largest clean-energy mineral resources in the U.S. and globally.”

“The NewRange Copper Nickel joint venture brings together two large, well defined mineral resources in the established Iron Range mining region of Minnesota,” Don Lindsay, Teck's CEO, said in a press statement.

Teck has not begun its environmental review and permitting process. "They are still in early stages," said Bruce Richardson, a PolyMet spokesman told Minnesota’s Star Tribune. "They are still doing exploration drilling, but they have a well-known and well-established [mineral] resource."

The environmental review for Teck's property is separate from PolyMet's, though Teck can rely on PolyMet's experience in the permitting process, Richardson said. "It gives them a gateway — perhaps a clearer pathway to the development of Mesaba down the road."

Richardson said the partnership will allow for other "synergies" between the two projects.

For instance, Teck has a proprietary mineral processing technology that could be employed at PolyMet’s project, he said. And the proximity of the two mines — Teck is roughly 1 mile northeast of PolyMet — could boost overall operational efficiency.

PolyMet and Teck are each putting $85 million into NewRange. Glencore is providing PolyMet's share and is also sinking an additional $30 million directly into PolyMet to cover debt obligations. Glencore owns 72 percent of PolyMet's stock.

The joint venture will be run by a six-member management committee, with three appointees from each company. PolyMet's Cherry will be the committee's chairman.

Teck began drilling for precious metals in Minnesota in 2007 and has intermittently done so since, the company told the Department of Natural Resources in 2019. It has said little publicly about its Minnesota venture but told the DNR in 2019 it planned more drilling.

Vancouver-based Teck mines copper, zinc and several other minerals, as well as coal for steelmaking, mostly in Canada. The company also owns a portion of a large petroleum extraction operation in Alberta's oil sands, also known as tar sands.

Glencore is one of the world’s largest mining companies, with interests in copper, cobalt, nickel, zinc and coal for power plants and steelmaking. It has long backed PolyMet and gradually assumed majority ownership in recent years.

PolyMet's operation would include an open-pit mine in wetlands south of Babbitt and a processing site at the former LTV taconite mining operation near Hoyt Lakes, all within the headwaters of the St. Louis River.

With the joint venture, the two companies could end up sharing the processing plant.



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