VIRGINIA — The final environmental impact statement on the proposed PolyMet Mine project on the East Range could be done by early next spring, according to Tom Landwehr, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources commissioner.
Landwehr said his goal for the copper/nickel/precious metals project is to have the EIS “out the door’’ in early spring. Environmental review has been in the works for nine years now.
Forty-five people are now working on it, Landwehr told about 80 local officials and residents attending a forum put on by the Range Association of Muncipilaties and Schools at the Coates Plaza Hotel Monday.
“It’s just a huge undertaking,’’ he said. “We have to have the best possible document after this.’’
The mine is projected to create 360 permanent jobs, hundreds and hundreds more spin-off positions and more than 1 million hours of construction work.
The nine-year process was clearly on the mind of Hoyt Lakes Mayor Mark Skelton as he kicked off the forum with concerns on project permitting delays. “Permitting has not improved, but gotten worse.’’
The draft EIS received 58,000 public comments last spring, Landwehr said and the law says they all have to be analyzed.
He added that he does not like to put things off as a rule. “I am not someone who likes delay.’’
The early spring goal is not set in stone, however.
“That (goal) presumes there are no hitches’’ along the way, Landwehr said. There is “always a chance for something to go wrong.’’
Once the final EIS is complete, there still has to be a public comment period and a determination of adequacy, which could take a total of about 1 1/2 months, he said. After that, it will take another 3-4 months before a permit to mine is issued, he added.
All together, there is a total of 21 individual permits needed for the mine to operate, according to Landwehr.
While the environmental review process has been a long one, the DNR commissioner said the EIS has to be done right because “there will be a lawsuit’’ somewhere down the line.
In fact, “every decision could be litigated,’’ he added.