The decision overturns an order by the state Court of Appeals that had remanded the permit for the NorthMet project (above) back to the agency. (Photo: PolyMet)

On Wednesday, February 24, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Clean Air Act permit issued to PolyMet Mining by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for its NorthMet project within the Mesabi Iron Range mining district. The decision overturned an order by the state Court of Appeals that had remanded the permit back to the agency.

The supreme court said the lower court had “relied on an erroneous interpretation of federal law” when it remanded the permit.

“This decision is another big win and a major step forward in the defense of our air permit,” Chairman, President and CEO Jon Cherry said. “We believe strongly that the facts and the law are on our side, and we are pleased that the court agreed with us on the law. This is a victory for the company, our many stakeholders and for everyone that supports responsible mining in Minnesota.”

The ruling endorses the MPCA’s permitting process which involved a yearslong review of the project and its potential effects on air quality, Cherry said. “The decision provides additional clarity that will enable the company to move closer to mining the metals that are needed for improvement to U.S. infrastructure projects and production of electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies,” he said.

Now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled on the most significant legal issue, the case will return to the court of appeals for resolution of a few remaining items that the court did not specifically address in its original decision. “We are confident that the record in the court of appeals supports the MPCA’s decision to issue the permit,” Cherry said.

Last week, a federal judge dismissed a challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s oversight of a water quality permit issued to PolyMet. The challenge was filed by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa back in September 2019.

PolyMet owns 100% of the NorthMet project, the first large-scale project to be permitted within the Duluth Complex in northeastern Minnesota, one of the world’s major, undeveloped mining regions. NorthMet has significant proven and probable reserves of copper, nickel and palladium in addition to marketable reserves of cobalt, platinum and gold.