Federal shutdown requires modification of the publication date for NorthMet environmental review document
Publication of the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for the NorthMet mining project has been delayed by two weeks due to the recent federal government shutdown, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Nov. 6. The previously identified federal and state publication dates were Nov. 22 and Nov. 25, respectively.
The federal shutdown occurred during critical final review steps for the NorthMet SDEIS. As a result, the federal co-lead agencies were unable to complete their final review under the previous schedule. The additional two weeks, which is slightly less than the total shutdown duration, will allow publication of the SDEIS on Dec. 6 in the Federal Register and Dec. 9 in the EQB Monitor.
Three co-lead agencies – the DNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service – have been preparing the SDEIS for the NorthMet proposal for 3½ years. The document examines the state’s first proposed copper, nickel and other precious metal mining operation. Operated by the PolyMet company, the mining project would be located near Hoyt Lakes, and would use the former LTV Steel Mining Company facility.
A supplement to a 2009 draft environmental impact statement, the SDEIS is a significant revision and addition to the original document. The SDEIS will provide the public with the most up-to-date information and environmental analysis of the proposal. The SDEIS is not a permit to mine, but rather a thorough description of the project and an analysis of any environmental impacts it is expected to have.
“Our federal partners understandably need this time to complete the final review steps that were delayed during the federal shutdown,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “While the agencies have worked collectively to minimize schedule impacts from the shutdown, our top priority has always been, and remains, to publish the best possible environmental review of this very complex project.”
The release of the document will begin an important public review period involving public meetings, likely be held in late January. The purpose of these public meetings will be to gather input on the adequacy of the SDEIS. More details about the public meetings will be announced in December, when the SDEIS is published.
The SDEIS describes the proposed project, identifies environmental impacts, and considers mitigation and alternatives that may lessen the environmental impacts. PolyMet’s project requires an SDEIS for three reasons: 1) to describe changes to the project proposal, 2) to analyze the proposed land exchange with the Superior National Forest, and 3) to provide additional information and analyses that were not included or done sufficiently in the draft EIS published in 2009.
During the past 14 months, the co-lead agencies with technical support from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and several cooperating agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and three Minnesota Chippewa bands, have been reviewing the SDEIS and making comments that will help shape the final document that will be released in December. The participating bands are the Grand Portage, Fond du Lac and Bois Forte.
The next steps after public review
As previously announced, following public review of the SDEIS, the co-lead agencies will review and respond to all comments, modify the draft document if needed, and ultimately publish a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for public review. The co-lead agencies then will determine if the final EIS adequately evaluates the project and its likely environmental impacts.
The SDEIS is a tool to inform the public of the project’s environmental impact and mitigation plans. It also informs the mine permitting processes. Final regulatory decisions cannot and will not be made until after the environmental review is completed.
At this point, no regulatory decisions have been made on the NorthMet project. During the permitting phase, there will be additional opportunities for public review and input on specific permits and details. Ultimately, PolyMet will be able to proceed with construction and operations only if all necessary permits are received.
About Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Media contacts: Steve Colvin, deputy director, Ecological and Water Resources Division, 651-259-5709, firstname.lastname@example.org; Chris Niskanen, DNR communications director, 651-259-5023, email@example.com; Douglas Bruner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Minnesota program manager, 651-290-5378, firstname.lastname@example.org; Tim Dabney, Superior National Forest, deputy forest supervisor, 218-410-1764,email@example.com