Air permit for proposed NewRange Copper Nickel mine is upheld by Minnesota Supreme Court

December 20, 2023

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld a key air permit for the NewRange Copper Nickel air permit formerly known as PolyMet. The decision is a victory for the project that would be the first copper and nickel in the mine but there are other permits that are still needed before it can proceed.

In August, the Minnesota Supreme Court revoked the project’s water discharge permit back to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for further clarification and documentation.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that state regulators failed to fully consider the threat to water quality when issuing the permit.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that The court’s decision about the air permit by a three-judge panel centers around an air emissions permit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency first granted five years ago for the project, which would be located near the Iron Range towns of Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes.

Several environmental groups and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued to overturn the permit, arguing that the MPCA failed to consider information suggesting that the company, now known as NewRange Copper Nickel, planned to build a much larger mine that would emit more pollution than what was covered under the air permit.

The issue has bounced between the court of appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the MPCA for the past several years.

In a 21-page ruling affirming the permit, Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman wrote that any future mine expansion is irrelevant, because NewRange would then have to apply for what’s known as a “major-source” permit.

“An applicant seeking such a permit is not guaranteed to secure it; full permitting review would be required,” Bjorkman wrote.

NewRange Copper Nickel spokesperson Bruce Richardson said the company is pleased with the decision.

“The Court summarized it well when it said in its order that it found the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency made ‘reflective and undisputed findings that show it carefully considered the salient problems,’ concluding that the company ‘will comply with the permit,’” Richardson said.
In the years since the original permits were issued, PolyMet has entered into a joint venture with the Canadian mining firm Teck Resources to develop the NorthMet deposit. Teck is exploring the adjacent and larger Mesaba Deposit.

Meanwhile, Swiss conglomerate Glencore, which had long been PolyMet’s main investor, completed a takeover of the company last month when it acquired all remaining shares.

Advocates for the mining project argue that modern mining methods can protect the environment. They also contend the more than billion-dollar investment would jumpstart the region’s economy and provide minerals that are needed for electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, and other technologies needed for the transition to a green economy.

“At the recent COP28 Summit, the United States, along with more than 100 other countries, made a commitment to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030. These commitments around the globe will require a massive build-out of infrastructure wholly dependent upon mineral resources,” said Julie Lucas, executive director of the industry group Mining Minnesota.

“The U.S. and Minnesota have an obligation to responsibly and domestically source minerals to meet their own needs. NewRange Copper Nickel holds the potential to be a significant contributor to our nation’s clean energy future.”



Related article search: