ST. PAUL – Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, said he supports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ recent decision to issue PolyMet the final permit necessary for the proposed NorthMet copper-nickel mining project to begin in Hoyt Lakes.
“Completion of the federal Section 404 wetland permit was the last of 18 state and federal detailed environmental permits necessary for this project to move forward,” Lueck said. “This is a good day for the environment across the world, clearing the path to producing copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold and cobalt under very strict environmental regulations here in Minnesota. That is in contrast to importing these important minerals from other parts of the world that do not follow Minnesota’s strict environmental regulations.”
According to the Corps of Engineers, “The permit authorizes the discharge of dredged and fill material into 901 acres, and indirect impacts to 27 acres, of waters of the United States in association with the construction and development of the NorthMet mine, which is located in St Louis County, Minnesota. The applicant purchased 1,278 credits from the Lake Superior Wetland Bank to offset wetland loss.
“Compared with PolyMet Mining’s original proposal, the permitted alternative avoids impacts to 500 acres of wetlands at the mine site and incorporates measures to minimize impacts to important ecological resources.”
Lueck said he began closely following the environmental review process related to copper-nickel mining in Minnesota long before he was elected to the Minnesota Legislature five years ago. He said his interest was sparked while serving on the Aitkin County Board of Commissioners, when it was first learned that a significant copper-nickel deposit exists in northern Aitkin County.
“That concern to make sure we do this correctly has included visits to other mining sites where that type of mining has taken place, and several visits to look first-hand at what is planned at the Polymet project,” Lueck said.
Lueck also is a member and past chair of the Legislative Permanent School Trust Commission that overseas many thousands of acres of school trust land that contain taconite, copper, nickel and many other important minerals. Revenue from school trust land mineral leases and royalties are deposited into the permanent school trust fund. The annual interest from that fund is distributed to the K-12 public schools across Minnesota on a per-student basis.