PolyMet support overwhelming

Department of Natural Resources Lands and Minerals Director Jess Richards, foreground, addresses the several hundred people attending Tuesday's pre-application public informational meeting in Aurora on PolyMet's proposed NorthMet Project.

AURORA — Those in the media and opponents of the PolyMet copper/nickel/precious metals project who continue to say the Iron Range is split in opinion on the venture should have a different assessment if they attended Tuesday’s public hearing on the permitting process.

The overwhelming majority of the estimated 450 people attending the hearing wore their support for what will be the state’s first copper/nickel/precious metals mine on their garments, with stickers backing PolyMet.

And the gathering at the Mesabi East School in Aurora was also noticeable for its lack of nonferrous mining opponents, with only a handful present.

“I am exceptionally pleased to get to the permitting process,” said PolyMet CEO Jon Cherry. “We’re now one step closer.”

The meeting was hosted by the Department of Natural Resources and is a required part of the permitting process.

It was simply an informational meeting, yet supporters showed up in force.

Cherry said the company is close to submitting applications for the various permits needed for construction and then production. He said once that step is taken, the company will be better positioned to issue a timetable for construction and startup.

“We want to make sure the applications are absolutely solid. It should be within the next few weeks,” Cherry said.

There has already been more than 10 years of environmental review for the venture.

The PolyMet mine and processing plant will create 350 permanent jobs, hundreds more indirect positions and more than 2 million hours of construction.

Mayors Mark Skelton and Mary Hess of Aurora left and walked from the Mesabi East School together, with Skelton to get some rest before traveling to Washington, D. C., today as part of a Range Association of Municipalities and Schools meeting to register with federal officials the region’s support for mining.

“You wouldn’t think we’d have to fight this hard to save the area. But we will,” Skelton said while loading pro-mining placards into his vehicle.

“It’s important we continue showing support for PolyMet,” Skelton said.

And they did.

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