Poly Met Mining Inc. will file a petition for review to the Minnesota Supreme Court seeking to overturn a state Court of Appeals decision handed down January 13 remanding the company’s Permit to Mine and dam safety permits to the Department of Natural Resources for a contested case hearing.
“The issues raised by the court of appeals’ decision are, of course, important to our project, but equally, they have far reaching impact to the state of Minnesota and to any future project that seeks permits from the state,” said Jon Cherry, president and CEO. “The potential negative consequences of the decision to any industry or business in the state, and the many Iron Range communities and workers who stand to benefit economically from responsible copper-nickel mining, warrant the Minnesota Supreme Court’s attention.”
Cherry cited, as a primary basis for seeking review, the court’s decision to require an open-ended contested case hearing process, in spite of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ comprehensive, 15-year-long environmental review and permitting process for the NorthMet copper-nickel-precious metals project. The company said the process involved extraordinary amounts of public review, public comment and public meetings.
“No other company in the history of the state has been subjected to anywhere near the time and cost that was associated with this permitting process,” Cherry said. “We did everything the state and the law required, and more. And the process confirmed that our project will be protective of human health and the environment.
“The court’s decision greatly diminishes the role of expert state agencies and their commissioners in permitting in favor of administrative law judges. It sets a precedent that subjects the project and any future industrial project in the state to an endless loop of review, contested case hearings and appeals,” he said.
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, WaterLegacy, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa filed several appeals with the court in December 2018 after the DNR denied petitions for a hearing and issued the permits for the project located in the Mesabi Iron Range.
In the court’s decision, Chief Judge Edward Cleary said the DNR’s decision to deny a hearing “was affected by an error of law in its overly narrow interpretation” of a Minnesota statute and “unsupported by substantial evidence.” The court also found that the DNR failed to include a “definite term” when issuing the NorthMet permit to mine. “Any permit issued following remand, the DNR shall determine and impose an appropriate, definite term,” the court document stated.
The groups also challenged the DNR’s decision to transfer an existing permit to PolyMet. However, the court sided with the DNR regarding that decision. The court said the DNR’s decision was “not arbitrary and capricious” and it affirmed that decision.
The company will file its petition for review to the Minnesota Supreme Court.