A Minnesota mine is under dispute, with the state Supreme Court ruling that officials lied about its impact and falsified permits.
Newrange Copper Nickel, or Polymet as it is usually called, is a joint venture between Polymet Mining and Teck Resources near the town of Babbitt, Minnesota. The company has been trying to complete the open-pit mine and its associated processing plant for over ten years. Public criticism and the need for proper studies and permits have delayed them all this time.
The latest delay comes from on high. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state’s Pollution Control Agency, the department responsible for industrial oversight, had illegally granted permits to allow work on the mine to proceed. They also ruled that the PCA had actively concealed from the public environmental concerns about the project, such as its threat to Lake Superior, 175 miles downriver from its site.
They “sought to avoid public scrutiny and to hide the risk of illegal water pollution from the public eye,” Justice Anne McKeig wrote in a concurring opinion. “This secrecy is unacceptable.”
In June, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revoked another permit for the project, because the permit was not written properly to address water quality standards set by the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reservation is directly downriver from the sites.
Court discoveries from that lawsuit and open-records requests by Minnesota-based nonprofit WaterLegacy unearthed documents showing that state regulators had pressured the EPA to withhold its concerns about the mine from public comments.
“Whistleblowers, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, and the district court hearing helped us learn that the MPCA used a corrupt process to keep EPA’s criticisms of the PolyMet permit secret,” WaterLegacy Advocacy Director Paula Maccabee said. “With this Minnesota Supreme Court decision, it becomes more likely that Minnesota agencies will use a fair process that protects people, rather than polluters.”