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Proposed Minnesota Mine Sidesteps Court Challenge

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(Kitco News) - Poly Met Mining and its proposed nickel and copper mine in Minnesota beat off a court challenge from environmental groups, the company announced yesterday.

The company said the Minnesota State Court of Appeals affirmed the validity of the state's nonferrous mining rules, rejecting a challenge from environmental groups. Poly Met Mining's mine permits stand.

In 2018 a court challenge was brought against the Department of Natural Resources, which issued Poly Met Mining's permits, by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. PolyMet intervened as a correspondent.

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness argued that the mine at the edge of Boundary Waters would be harmed by "open toxic sulfide-ore" and cause "...irreparable harm and damage to the waters of our beloved wilderness."

In its decision, the court said DNR did not exceed its statutory authority.

"[Flexible] reclamation rules are necessary to accommodate the variety of conditions at proposed mine sites and allow for changes to mining technology. Each reclamation rule includes a goal and specific requirements," wrote the court in its decision. "The DNR uses the goals to guide its application of the rule requirements, and also to determine whether to grant variances to the rule. Petitioners cite no binding, apposite authority precluding this approach, and we are aware of none."

Jon Cherry, president and CEO of Poly Met Mining, welcomed the ruling.

“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals ruled in our favor," said Jon Cherry, president and CEO. “Minnesota’s standards for nonferrous mining are among the strictest anywhere in the world, and we demonstrated through the extensive environmental review and permitting process that we can meet or exceed these standards."

Poly Met Mining's NorthMet project is being built in northeastern Minnesota. The company said it has all its necessary permits to begin work. The company said the mine will create 360 direct jobs and $515 million annual economic benefits.

The company estimates that the available metals in the mine plan are 1.16 billion pounds copper, 170 million pounds nickel and 6.2 million pounds cobalt.

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