History

For more than 130 years, the Mesabi Iron Range has been the major source of iron ore for the nation’s steel industry, supplying the raw materials that helped build industrial America. In the 1940s copper was discovered near the eastern end of the Iron Range on the northern margin of a massive geologic formation known as the Duluth Complex. With improvements in processing technology, it now is possible to commercially recover these important metals: copper, nickel, cobalt and precious metals including platinum, palladium, gold and silver.

PolyMet would be the first in Minnesota to produce these metals, further solidifying the state’s position as a supplier of critical raw materials for the nation and ushering in a new era of economic prosperity on the East Range. Below you can read a more detailed account of copper-nickel discovery and development in Minnesota and PolyMet’s leadership role in that development.

 

1948

Fred S. Childers Sr., a prospector from Ely, Minn., notices a copper stain in workings for construction of a road approximately nine miles southeast of Ely. He begins searching nearby… More ›

Fred S. Childers Sr., a prospector from Ely, Minn., notices a copper stain in workings for construction of a road approximately nine miles southeast of Ely. He begins searching nearby outcroppings, enlisting the help of Roger V. Whiteside, of Duluth.


1951

With an initial hole drilled 188 feet deep, exploration drilling begins in the proximity of Childers’ earlier find. Rich mineralized zones of copper and nickel are found in what becomes… More ›

With an initial hole drilled 188 feet deep, exploration drilling begins in the proximity of Childers’ earlier find. Rich mineralized zones of copper and nickel are found in what becomes known as the Duluth Complex.


1940s - 50s

With reserves of hematite dwindling, the iron industry begins to focus on taconite, a lower-grade iron ore.


1953 - 1957

Erie Mining Company (owned by Bethlehem Steel, Youngstown Steel & Tube, Interlake Iron Corporation and Stelco) begins construction on the Erie Plant, rail line, power plant and harbor, and the… More ›

Erie Mining Company (owned by Bethlehem Steel, Youngstown Steel & Tube, Interlake Iron Corporation and Stelco) begins construction on the Erie Plant, rail line, power plant and harbor, and the nearby community of Hoyt Lakes. The $300-million complex is built to process and ship taconite. (The company completes a $50 million expansion of the facility in 1967.)


1957

The Erie Plant begins operation and produces 7.5 million tons of taconite pellets per year. Name-plate capacity increases to 10.3 million tons in 1967 and the plant processes a record… More ›

The Erie Plant begins operation and produces 7.5 million tons of taconite pellets per year. Name-plate capacity increases to 10.3 million tons in 1967 and the plant processes a record 13.1 million tons in 1973.


1969

United States Steel Corporation conducts exploratory drilling and discovers what is now the NorthMet deposit. (The location is nearly 20 miles southwest of Childers’ original discovery in 1948.) U.S. Steel… More ›

United States Steel Corporation conducts exploratory drilling and discovers what is now the NorthMet deposit. (The location is nearly 20 miles southwest of Childers’ original discovery in 1948.) U.S. Steel investigates the deposit as a high-grade, underground copper-nickel resource.

Eight major exploration programs are conducted on the deposit through the years, with more than 400 holes drilled and extensive assaying conducted. Additional information about the NorthMet ore body is collected from nearby hydrogeological studies, water supply wells, test pits and geophysical soundings.


Early 1970s

Environmental protection takes center stage in the U.S. as the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act are signed into law and the Environmental Protection Agency… More ›

Environmental protection takes center stage in the U.S. as the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act are signed into law and the Environmental Protection Agency is established. The increasing awareness of man’s impact on the environment leads to development of pollution-controlling technologies in automobiles and factories, including the catalytic converter for automobiles using platinum group metals. Prior to the development of the catalytic converter, there was little market for platinum-group metals.


1981

Fleck Resources Ltd., a privately held exploration company (later to be renamed PolyMet), is incorporated March 4, in Vancouver, Canada.


1984

Fleck stock begins trading publicly on the Vancouver Stock Exchange.


Mid 1980s

Platinum group metals (PGMs) are discovered in the Duluth Complex. Awareness of the substantial PGM potential of the Duluth Complex increases during this period.


1986

LTV Corporation (subsequently renamed LTV Steel) acquires 100-percent ownership of the Erie Mining Company and renames it LTV Steel Mining Company.


1987

The Minnesota Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) publishes data suggesting the possibility of a large resource of PGMs in the Duluth Complex.


1989

Fleck enters into a perpetually renewable mineral lease to the NorthMet deposit with U.S. Steel.

The company begins to re-assay drill cuttings (pulps and rejects) from the previous U.S. Steel drill… More ›

Fleck enters into a perpetually renewable mineral lease to the NorthMet deposit with U.S. Steel.

The company begins to re-assay drill cuttings (pulps and rejects) from the previous U.S. Steel drill holes to identify and quantify possible PGM values. This effort continues into the 1990s.


1998

A new management team takes over. Fleck changes its name to Poly Met Mining, Inc., commonly known as PolyMet.

 


2000

In May, LTV announces that it will shutter the LTV Steel Mining Company facilities. Cleveland Cliffs (now Cliffs Natural Resources, generally known as Cliffs) which was managing the facility, local… More ›

In May, LTV announces that it will shutter the LTV Steel Mining Company facilities. Cleveland Cliffs (now Cliffs Natural Resources, generally known as Cliffs) which was managing the facility, local unions and the state start searching for a new use for the facilities.

In July, PolyMet enters into a joint venture arrangement with North Limited, a major Australian mining company, to advance the NorthMet Project to commercial production.

In August, London-based Rio Tinto Limited acquires North in a hostile acquisition, seeking to expand Rio’s Australian iron ore business. PolyMet exercises its right to terminate the joint venture upon change of control of North Limited and regains 100-percent interest in the NorthMet Project.

PolyMet commissions a pre-feasibility study on the project that is completed in April the following year. The pre-feasibility study contemplates a 55,000 ton-per-day, open-pit operation and anticipates the construction of a new, stand-alone processing plant to produce copper, nickel, and cobalt metals on site.

December 29, LTV Corporation and its 48 subsidiaries file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.


2001

January 4, 1,400 workers are laid off at LTV Steel Mining Company. (At the time, the mill is the oldest continuously operating taconite operation on the Mesabi Iron Range.) The… More ›

January 4, 1,400 workers are laid off at LTV Steel Mining Company. (At the time, the mill is the oldest continuously operating taconite operation on the Mesabi Iron Range.) The closure is a severe economic blow to Hoyt Lakes and the region.

PolyMet completes a pre-feasibility study that assumes a greenfield project with a new plant and tailings basin to the south of the deposit. However, with commodity prices at a cyclical low combined with the capital cost of building a new plant, project development stalls.

Cliffs and Minnesota Power purchase LTV Steel Mining Company assets out of bankruptcy. Cliffs takes ownership of the Erie Plant facilities and associated infrastructure, some of the LTV assets including all the mine-related real estate, the taconite mill and processing facilities, rail line and loading dock, and assumes certain environmental liabilities.


2003

New PolyMet leadership recognizes that repurposing the idled LTV Steel Mining Company facilities, located only six miles from the NorthMet deposit and connected to it by private railroad, would substantially… More ›

New PolyMet leadership recognizes that repurposing the idled LTV Steel Mining Company facilities, located only six miles from the NorthMet deposit and connected to it by private railroad, would substantially reduce the capital cost of the project and facilitate long-term scalability.


2004

PolyMet acquires an option to buy the core of the former LTV Steel Mining Company site from Cliffs for $500,000 and issues Cliffs 1,000,000 common shares of PolyMet stock valued… More ›

PolyMet acquires an option to buy the core of the former LTV Steel Mining Company site from Cliffs for $500,000 and issues Cliffs 1,000,000 common shares of PolyMet stock valued at about $229,000.


2005

The company raises $20 million in private placements of its shares.

In October, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes its Environmental Assessment Worksheet Decision Document establishing the Department of Natural… More ›

The company raises $20 million in private placements of its shares.

In October, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes its Environmental Assessment Worksheet Decision Document establishing the Department of Natural Resources as the lead state agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the lead federal agency for preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act. (The U.S. Forest Service was added as a co-lead agency in October 2010.) For a complete timeline and status of this process, see Environmental Review and Permitting Status. You can also download the Department of Natural Resources’ fact sheet on the environmental review process [PDF].

November 15, PolyMet exercises its option to purchase the Erie Plant and associated infrastructure for $1 million cash and 6,200,547 common shares valued at $7.564 million, and $2.4 million paid in quarterly cash installments through June 2008.

 


2006

The company purchases additional land (6,000 acres), a railroad connection and associated equipment and infrastructure, other facilities and associated rights from Cliffs for two million common shares valued at $6.16… More ›

The company purchases additional land (6,000 acres), a railroad connection and associated equipment and infrastructure, other facilities and associated rights from Cliffs for two million common shares valued at $6.16 million and $15 million in cash payable in two notes, each for $7.5 million.

From the 2005 and 2006 Cliffs acquisitions, the company’s new holdings include crushing and milling equipment (the Erie Plant), plant site buildings, tailings basin and workshops, extensive spare parts, railroad connection to the site of the NorthMet ore body, 120-railcar fleet, and locomotive fueling and maintenance facilities. Also included are water rights and pipelines, large administrative offices on site and approximately 6,000 acres to the east and west of and contiguous to our existing tailings facilities, and other real estate. Certain liabilities associated with the property also are assumed.

June 26, PolyMet stock is listed on the American Stock Exchange (now the NYSE MKT) under the symbol PLM.

The company transitions to a development-stage entity following the completion of the Definitive Feasibility Study. Conducted by consultants Bateman Engineering Pty Ltd, the study establishes reserves for the first time and confirms the economic and technical viability of the NorthMet Project. The study shows Proven and Probable Reserves of 181.7 million tons grading .31 percent copper, .09 percent nickel, .008 percent cobalt and .010 ounces per ton of precious metals.


2007

The company raises $42.7 million in a private placement of its common shares.


2008

Upon completion of additional drilling, the project’s mineral reserve estimates are expanded and the company reports Proven and Probable Reserves of 274.7 million tons grading at .28 percent copper, .08… More ›

Upon completion of additional drilling, the project’s mineral reserve estimates are expanded and the company reports Proven and Probable Reserves of 274.7 million tons grading at .28 percent copper, .08 percent nickel, .008 percent cobalt and .010 ounces per ton precious metals.

The operational headquarters are established at the Erie Plant site facilities in Hoyt Lakes.

Glencore, now one of the world’s largest diversified, integrated natural resource companies, enters into an agreement with PolyMet to invest $25 million by way of a loan convertible into PolyMet common shares at $4 per share, and a commitment to purchase future production of concentrates at prevailing market terms. The transaction provides much needed funding for environmental review, engineering and procurement.


2009

The draft Environmental Impact Statement is published in November by the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and undergoes a public comment period.


2010

In February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the draft Environmental Impact Statement as EU-3 and recommends changes. Work begins on a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement. Joining the review… More ›

In February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the draft Environmental Impact Statement as EU-3 and recommends changes. Work begins on a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement. Joining the review are the U.S. Forest Service as a co-lead agency and the Environmental Protection Agency as a consulting agency. (Environmental Protection Agency later becomes a cooperating agency in June 2011.)

PolyMet issues to Glencore $30 million common shares in three tranches between November 2010 and October 2012.


2011

PolyMet announces plans to build the project in two phases. In the first phase, the company will produce and market two metal concentrates: one containing copper and… More ›

PolyMet announces plans to build the project in two phases. In the first phase, the company will produce and market two metal concentrates: one containing copper and gold, and the other containing nickel, platinum, PGMs and cobalt. In the second phase a hydrometallurgical plant will be built, funded in part from sales of concentrate produced in the first phase.

The company establishes executive offices in St. Paul, Minnesota, while the operational headquarters remain at the Erie Plant site in Hoyt Lakes.

PolyMet issues to Glencore $20 million common shares and restructures the convertible loan to be convertible at $1.50 per share. In combination, these transactions increase Glencore’s ownership to approximately 27 percent of outstanding shares and 34 percent on a fully diluted basis.


2012

The company relocates its corporate office from Richmond, B.C. to Toronto, Ont., a financial center for mining.

Jon Cherry, an environmental engineer with more than 25 years of… More ›

The company relocates its corporate office from Richmond, B.C. to Toronto, Ont., a financial center for mining.

Jon Cherry, an environmental engineer with more than 25 years of mining experience, joins PolyMet Mining as its president, CEO and a director to lead the project through completion of the environmental review and permitting stages, and development and operation of the mine. His prior experience includes the successful permitting of the Eagle nickel mine in Michigan.


2013

April 10, PolyMet Mining announces an offering of rights to all holders of common shares of the company to raise approximately $60 million in gross proceeds; the company receives subscriptions… More ›

April 10, PolyMet Mining announces an offering of rights to all holders of common shares of the company to raise approximately $60 million in gross proceeds; the company receives subscriptions totaling $95.5 million. Glencore takes up its rights and purchases approximately $21 million in the rights offering.

December 6, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineering and U.S. Forest Service publish the supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project and commence a 90-day public comment period.


2014

March 11, the Environmental Protection Agency rates the supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement as EC-2 , one of the highest ratings the agency has ever given to a mining project. The Minneapolis Light Rail and new Stillwater Bridge projects are among local projects that have received a similar rating. The EC-2 rating acknowledges the clarity and completeness of the environmental review as well as the extensive project improvements reflected in the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Download the Department of Natural Resources’ fact sheet on project changes since the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) [PDF] in 2009.


2015

November 6, the Department of Natural Resources announces the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. It is subsequently published in the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board Monitor and the Federal… More ›

November 6, the Department of Natural Resources announces the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. It is subsequently published in the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board Monitor and the Federal Register. The 3,500-page document affirms the mine can produce strategically important metals in a manner that complies with the law, protects human health and the environment, and creates economic benefits.

November 13, the U.S. Forest Service issues its Draft Record of Decision to implement the proposed land exchange in which 6,650 acres of federal lands would be exchanged for 6,690 acres of lands privately held by PolyMet.

 


2016

March 3, the State of Minnesota validates the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the NorthMet Project by announcing its adequacy decision. The decision marks the completion of the environmental… More ›

March 3, the State of Minnesota validates the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the NorthMet Project by announcing its adequacy decision. The decision marks the completion of the environmental review process for the state and paves the way for construction and operating permits for the project.

July 1, PolyMet repays a $4 million loan plus accrued interest to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. The loan helped PolyMet acquire high-quality forest lands to be traded for federal land as part of the proposed land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service. The land exchange was subsequently authorized by the Forest Service in January 2017.

July and August, PolyMet submits major water- and air-related permit applications to the state. View our environmental review and permitting here. Track the progress of permits here.

October 28, the company completes a $30.1 million private placement of stock, providing necessary funds for permitting the project.

November 3, the company submits its Permit to Mine application to the state, which includes the Wetland Replacement Plan as well as financial assurance estimates. The permit is the last of the major permit applications required to be submitted before PolyMet can build and operate the mine.

To view the permit applications and status>


2017

January 9, the U.S. Forest Service issues its Final Record of Decision authorizing the land exchange and Final Environmental Impact Statement. In its decision, the Forest Service concludes the land exchange is in the best public decision. View the decision>