PolyMet’s Jon Cherry knows how regulatory agencies tick when it comes to mining. Thus his assessment on Tuesday of comments by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding PolyMet’s preliminary supplemental draft EIS carries significant weight.

And that assessment by PolyMet’s president and chief executive officer is good news, indeed.

While on the Range earlier this week to attend a business event, Cherry said that a recent EPA letter on PolyMet’s Environmental Impact Statement to regulators contains positive language for the copper/nickel/precious metals project in the footprint of the former LTV Mining Co., near Hoyt Lakes. He said the letter indicates that progress has been made, questions answered and the agency is looking to the project moving forward.

It was just a little more than a year ago that Cherry was selected by PolyMet’s board of directors to be CEO and president and also chairman of the board’s safety, health and environmental committee.

It was a good and wise choice.

Cherry was with Rio Tinto for more than 20 years, where he worked in a number of positions, including general manager. In that position, he was responsible for permitting and the initial development of the Eagle Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

And prior to that, he was vice president with Rio Tinto, responsible for strategic direction in environmental permitting and compliance, legal matters and external relations related to mine development of the Resolution copper project in Arizona, United States.

He knows mining well. And he has plenty of experience dealing with Washington regulators.

PolyMet has been in development for more than nine years now. The environmental review has been exhaustive. We believe it has been far too long to get a mining project that will create thousands and thousands of construction, vendor and permanent jobs on the Range.

But if that means this first copper/nickel/precious metals mining operation in Minnesota will be environmentally stronger to receive a blessing from all or most regulators soon — well then, perhaps it will be worth it in the long run with other projects such as Twin Metals waiting in the wings.

But let’s have no more delay or steps backward.

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