PolyMet remains determined to build Minnesota mine

23rd April 2020 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Deputy Editor Online

TSX- and NYSE American-listed Polymet remains “determined and confident” that it will advance its copper/nickel mine on the Iron Range, Minnesota, and this week turned to the Supreme Court to view a lower court ruling on the company’s air permit.

The company is seeking to overturn a state Court of Appeals ruling on March 23 that remanded the air permit to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). PolyMet is asking the Supreme Court to clarify when a court of appeals can require an agency to make additional findings and whether it can presume without evidence that an agency will not enforce its permits.

“The Court of Appeals’ decision creates regulatory uncertainty that could have far-reaching, negative implications for businesses seeking permits in the state,” CEO and president Jon Cherry said in a statement.

This is the second petition the company has made to the Supreme Court to review a Court of Appeals' decision. The Supreme Court on March 25 granted petitions for review from both PolyMet and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on a ruling from the lower court remanding the permit to mine and dam safety permits to the DNR.

Cherry said building the mine, which will require just under $1-billion in the first phase, would be a “meaningful” way in which Minnesota could contribute to climate change solutions by furnishing the copper, nickel, cobalt and other metals that were critical to the manufacture of renewable energy technologies.

But the project is facing upheaval from environmental groups, which are concerned about its impact on water systems.

The project has a measured and indicated resource of 649-million tonnes. PolyMet plans to develop the mining operation in two phases, the first of which involves development of 225-million tons – nearly one-third of NorthMet’s known resource – into an operating mine processing 32 000 t/d over a 20-year mine life. It also includes rehabilitating the former LTV Steel Mining Company processing plant.

Capital costs for Phase 1 are estimated at $945-million and include refurbishment of the existing primary crushing circuit and replacing the existing rod and ball mill circuits with a new, modern semi-autogenous grinding mill, ball mill and flotation circuit. It also includes rail upgrades, mining equipment and a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant.

Phase 2 involves construction and operation of a hydrometallurgical plant to treat nickel sulphide concentrates into upgraded nickel/cobalt hydroxide and recover additional copper and platinum-group metals. Phase 2 would increase the project’s capital costs by about $259-million.