PolyMet ‘pleased’ with EPA letter

The former LTV plant in Hoyt Lakes remains in place, ready to start life again as PolyMet. The company’s CEO said he was pleased with feedback from the EPA’s Preliminary Environmental Impact Statement.

ST. PAUL — PolyMet CEO and Director Jon Cherry says the company is “very pleased” with a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement for the state’s first copper/nickel/precious metals mine near Hoyt Lakes.

“We’re proud of how we’ve been handling this. We are pleased with the final PEIS,” Cherry said in a telephone interview with the Mesabi Daily News.

Cherry also discounted allegations by critics that the EPA comments on the PFEIS related to a “potential” northward flow path from the mine site’ east pit should be a major blow to the project.

PolyMet officials point out that the major spokesman for anti-nonferrous mining advocates on this issue, John Coleman, who works for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, has admitted previously to not being a “groundwater modeling expert.”

The EPA, in letter dated Aug. 5, made recommendations to even further improve the PFEIS, which the federal agency praised.

“The PFEIS reflects many improvements to the project, and to the clarity and completeness of the environmental review.

“Our extensive discussions with the co-lead and cooperating agencies have helped to resolve virtually all of our previous comments, and to review important questions about project modeling,” the letter said.

The EPA included six recommendations on the NorthMet PFEIS, which Cherry said will “absolutely” be addressed and remedied by the final document.

Coleman has especially zeroed in on the northward flow issue, as if it could be a killer of the project.

But the EPA basically defuses the issue. And Cherry said the company will have no problem handling the recommendation.

“The co-leads have proposed an adaptive management strategy to monitor for a possible northward flow path from the NorthMet Mine Site’s East Pit, and to mitigate or prevent this flow path if necessary.

“EPA’s review and discussion with co-lead and cooperating agencies indicate that a northward flow path is possible and can be addressed through adaptive management.

EPA regards the proposed strategy as an appropriate response to the possibility,” reads the agency letter.

The recommendation is that the adaptive management strategy “should be clearly and specifically described in the FEIS, with reference to relevant analysis in a supporting technical memorandum.”

Cherry said that recommendation, too, will be followed.

A PolyMet statement on the issue stresses that the agencies involved with review of the PFEIS “have appropriately evaluated all concerns submitted to them from the public, including the one from Mr. Coleman. There have been no miscalculations, fundamental or otherwise in the Environmental Impact Statement.”

PolyMet officials say the efforts to try to discredit the model in the draft EIS “are purely an attempt to create doubt in the process.”

The company also points out how Coleman’s assertions have been disproved and rejected.

“Mr. Coleman admits in his own words through a letter to the co-lead agencies that he is not a groundwater expert. And he has challenged unsuccessfully groundwater models at the Eagle Mine in Michigan and the Flambeau Mine in Wisconsin in attempts to stop them from being developed.”

The other recommendations from the EPA, which Cherry said will be satisfied, deal with the following issues:

• Base flow and cumulative impacts.

• Potential impacts of groundwater drawdown.

• Wetland mitigation ratios.

• Model calibration.

• Contradictory information.

• Impacts to moose.

The PolyMet copper/nickel/precious metals project near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt will create 350 permanent jobs, hundreds more spin-off positions, and more than 2 million hours of construction.

The venture has already received more than a decade of environmental review.

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