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**PolyMet is now known as NewRange Copper Nickel, LLC**

NewRange Copper Nickel, LLC – Section 404 permit status

On September 10, 2019, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleging the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and the Corps violated Clean Water Act Section 401(a)(2) due to EPA's failure to issue notice to the band and the Corps' failure to hold a hearing on the downstream impacts of the PolyMet/NorthMet Mine project or take measures needed to ensure the project meets the band's water quality standards.  

The court ruled that "EPA had a non-discretionary duty to make a 'may affect' determination pursuant to Clean Water Act Section 401 (a) (2). In response, EPA filed a motion on March 4, 2021, requesting a voluntary remand to allow EPA to make the "may affect" determination required by Section 401(a)(2). Further, on March 4, 2021, EPA requested the Corps consider suspending the 404 Permit if the court granted its motion for a voluntary remand. Subsequently, the court granted EPA’s motion on March 8, 2021. On March 17, 2021, the Corps suspended the Clean Water Act 404 permit while the EPA reconsidered effects on downstream water quality from the proposal under 401(a)(2). To date, no work in waters on site as authorized under the Department of the Army permit has begun. 

On June 4, 2021, the EPA issued a ‘may affect’ determination to the Band and the State of Wisconsin.  Each party had 60 days to determine if the discharge will affect the quality of its  waters so as to violate any water quality requirements, to notify the EPA and Corps of its objection and to request a public hearing. On August 3, 2021, the band submitted to the Corps an objection to the 404 permit and requested a public hearing on the objection pursuant to CWA Section 401(a)(2). The State of Wisconsin did not object to the CWA Section 404 permit.       

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St Paul District, completed its Record of Decision and issued an individual permit to PolyMet Mining, Inc., for its NorthMet project March 21, 2019. The permit authorizes the discharge of dredged and fill material into 901 acres, and indirect impacts to 27 acres, of waters of the United States in association with the construction and development of the NorthMet mine, which is located in St Louis County, Minnesota.

The Corps' evaluation of the project was for construction-related impacts to wetlands, specifically the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S.

The applicant purchased 1,278 credits from the Lake Superior Wetland Bank to offset wetland loss. 

Application process/history

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The Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, and its partners – the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – worked together to develop a comprehensive, robust Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, for the proposed PolyMet mining project near Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.

The agencies reviewed and responded to public comments from three public meetings, to include a Corps public hearing in Duluth, Minnesota. In addition, the Corps, and its partners, collectively received more than 58,000 submissions and thematically responded to approximately 17,000 unique comments from the public engagement and Supplemental Draft EIS review.   

The agencies have publicly released the NorthMet Mining and Land Exchange FEIS. Completion of the nearly 3,000-page environmental document signifies a major step forward in the review process, which has been thoughtful, independent and thorough. Despite the FEIS being released, no permit decisions have been made.  After the environmental review process is complete, the project will still need to receive local, state and federal approvals and permits in order to proceed. This includes the Corps’ Department of the Army permit.
The PolyMet Mining Company is proposing to develop a copper-nickel mine. The open pit mine, waste rock stockpiles and other mine-site facilities would disturb around 1,400 acres. The least reactive waste rock would be stored in a permanent stockpile adjacent to the mine. The most reactive waste rock would be stored temporarily in lined surface stockpiles and then backfilled into the mine pit and permanently stored under water. Ore processing would take place at the former LTV Steel Mining Company’s taconite ore processing plant. The plant would need to be refurbished and modified to process base and precious metal sulfide ore. PolyMet has estimated the project would have direct impacts on about 900 acres of wetlands. Most of these wetlands at the mine site abut the Partridge River, which is part of a tributary system to Lake Superior. The potential for elevated levels of sulfate and metals in drainage water from the open pits, stockpiles and tailings basin is a concern.
PolyMet Mining, Inc., has proposed to construct and operate an open pit mine approximately 6 miles south of Babbitt in St. Louis County, Minnesota. The ore from this mine would be hauled approximately 8 miles west on an existing railroad line for processing in an idle taconite ore processing plant. The processing plant is approximately 6 miles north of Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota. The ore would be crushed and processed to extract copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals by flotation, dissolution and precipitation. The waste from the mine, or tailings, would be discharged into an existing taconite tailings basin. 

Public Hearing

To access a playlist containing all the recorded sessions from the PolyMet public hearing please click here (external YouTube link).

Official transcript for day 1 of the public hearing
Official transcript for day 2 of the public hearing
Official transcript for day 3 of the public hearing (call-in session)

Contact information

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District, Regulatory Division
332 Minnesota St.
Suite E1500
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Phone: (800) 290-5847