We take our responsibility to closely monitor and control air emissions from our project seriously. While operating under the air quality permit issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, we will proceed with construction and operation activities while keeping emissions within permitted limits. For example, equipment used in many aspects of our operation is tested and monitored regularly to ensure that emissions stay within state and federal regulation levels. With agency oversight and a duty to respect our shared landscape and neighbors, we will work diligently to ensure human health and northern Minnesota’s beautiful views are not impaired by emissions from PolyMet.
Water is an important economic and cultural resource for all Minnesotans. By using a water recycling program in our flotation tailings basin and treating all potential discharge allowed by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permit, we ensure that all water used in mining and processing operations is safe for our area watershed. A discharge permit issued by the MPCA directs us to monitor, limit and treat any water that may potentially leave our site. It also instructs us to regularly submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) that will inform the agency and the public on our discharge rates. High standards set by the MPCA are designed to protect our water resources and preserve our rich water-based heritage in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
In our mining site and plant, water use is a crucial facet of our production process. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued water appropriation permits for mine pit dewatering and plant processing. The DNR allocates the amount of water we can appropriate from the mine pit, our mine site liners and storage areas, the Hydrometallurgical Residue Facility (HRF) and nearby Colby Lake. These permits provide a basis for our monitoring, planning, conservation efforts and drought planning, and we will work to ensure that our operation follows these regulations. All data submitted in compliance with the water appropriation permits, including annual water use reports, is public information and will be available to interested parties.
To ensure our tailings basin is structurally sound, a team of professionals will design, construct, maintain and operate the basin in accordance with our dam safety permit issued by the DNR. We designed and modeled the tailings basin through the life of the mine, and the DNR has approved these plans in consultation with independent experts. To comply with this permit, we will use modern instrumentation to monitor the structure and follow the design plan to prevent any events where the structural integrity of the basin might be threatened.
Permit to Mine
The Permit to Mine, issued by the DNR, outlines many responsibilities PolyMet must take up for the mine to be in full compliance with state regulations. The purpose of these state regulations is to “control possible adverse effects of nonferrous metallic mineral mining, to preserve natural resources, and to encourage planning of future land utilization, while at the same time promoting orderly development of nonferrous metallic mineral mining, encouragement of good mining practices, and recognition and identification of the beneficial aspects of nonferrous metallic mineral mining.” The oversight provided by the agency will provide an additional layer of security to ensure that we are always meeting or exceeding state standards. Following a comprehensive application process, the Permit to Mine is detailed and fact-checked, and we will meet the specific permit requirements outlined in the approved document.
2018 Permit to Mine Annual Report
Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasures
PolyMet has a duty to follow a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure plan required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The SPCC plan is designed to minimize any potential impact on the environment resulting from accidental spills. This plan requires us to clean and contain existing tanks from earlier iron ore mining operations, and it sets up a procedure for responding to any potential spills in operation. Training, inspections, tests, records and specific procedures are required by the SPCC plan, and we are fully confident that this structure will allow us to protect our environment from an accidental release.
The Mesabi Iron Range is a historically and culturally significant place, and we have an important duty to respect those who came before us. Early in our project, we will examine the historical significance of earlier mining facilities on the property through the National Register of Historic Places and in conjunction with the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office. With our indigenous neighbors, we will form a comprehensive plan to preserve and manage important Ojibwe cultural sites that may be affected by our project and its location. By collaborating on the preservation of these sites, we can ensure that these significant places of history and culture will be available for future generations.