March 26, PolyMet restructures $152 million of debt owed to Glencore AG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Glencore plc, and secures a commitment for an additional $80 million in debentures from Glencore over the following 12-month period. The additional funding is targeted for pre- and post-permitting work, including detailed engineering and environmental cleanup, and to purchase wetland credits.
March 27, the company announces the filing of its updated feasibility study known as the NorthMet Technical Report, NI 43-101, dated March 26, 2018, with Canadian and U.S. securities agencies. The report reaffirms the technical and financial viability of developing the project in two distinct phases. Phase I involves development of 225 million tons – nearly one-third of NorthMet’s known resource – into an operating mine processing 32,000 tons of ore per day over a 20-year permitted mine life. Phase II involves construction and operation – at the same mining rate – of a hydrometallurgical plant to treat nickel sulfide concentrates into upgraded nickel-cobalt hydroxide and recover additional copper and platinum-group metals. Phase II will be at a later date at the company’s discretion. Capital costs for Phase I are estimated at $945 million and an additional $259 million for Phase II. The report also provides preliminary economic assessments for mining the entire NorthMet resource, however, any such opportunities would be subject to various regulatory requirements and would require additional capital investment.
June 28, the land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and PolyMet closes. The Forest Service transfers approximately 6,650 acres of federal lands to PolyMet, consolidating its land ownership, and in return the Forest Service receives 6,690 acres of private lands, further consolidating its land holdings in northeast Minnesota. With this administrative exchange, the company has total surface rights, including ownership and other use and occupancy rights, to approximately 19,000 contiguous acres (30 square miles) of land including the mine and processing sites, the transportation corridor connecting those sites, the existing tailings basin and buffer.