State regulators will conduct their own review of Twin Metals project

November 25, 2019

Minnesota regulators announced that rather than collaborate with federal regulators, it plans to conduct an independent environmental review of the proposed Twin Metals Minnesota copper and nickel project.

Twin Metals is expected to file it mine plan of operations in December which will kick-start the environmental review process, MPR News reported.

The independent review would be a departure from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approached he PolyMet copper and nickel project. For that project, the DNR partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the project’s Environmental Impact Statement.

In announcing the decision about the Twin Metals project, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said the agency is committed to “ensuring a thorough, scientific and neutral review of the proposal based on state law.” And she said the DNR believes it can best accomplish that goal by conducting a separate environmental review from the one that the federal government will also conduct.

The DNR said it expects Twin Metals to submit a mine plan in December for its proposed operation, which would be located in the Superior National Forest about six miles southeast of Ely — and a mile from the southern edge of the wilderness area.

The state approved the PolyMet project in 2017. State and federal regulators worked for more than 10 years to complete the Environmental Impact Statement for that project. The project has since continued to wind its way through court and legal challenges.

The decision from the DNR about Twin Metals means that state and federal regulators will complete two separate studies, to evaluate the proposed project. Strommen emphasized the agency would work to coordinate its efforts with federal regulators to reduce duplication.

Officials said they would work together to reconcile any major discrepancies that might arise between the state and federal reviews. But in the end, whether the environmental review is conducted jointly or separately, state and federal agencies will make their own decisions as to whether to ultimately grant Twin Metals the permits it would need to build a mine.

“Twin Metals Minnesota (TMM) shares the state of Minnesota’s commitment to an open, transparent and public environmental review process,” Twin Metals said in a statement. “As we at Twin Metals continue to advance our plans to submit a Mine Plan of Operations soon to state and federal agencies, we look forward to the opportunity to be able to enter the regulatory process. The decision announced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to complete a state-only Environmental Impact Statement doesn’t change that, and we are continuing our work to submit our project for review.

“The agencies that oversee the environmental review of our project have robust processes in place to ensure we are held to the highest of standards. We look forward to fully engaging with agencies and the public in the coming years, and we ultimately believe that engagement will lead to the best project for Minnesota. We must meet or exceed all environmental standards, or our project will not proceed.”
 

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