Fresh setback for NorthMet copper mine

7th August 2023 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

Fresh setback for NorthMet copper mine

The proposed NorthMet copper and nickel project in Minnesota, in the US, has encountered another obstacle in its development journey. The Minnesota Supreme Court last week rejected a key wastewater permit for the project, adding to the challenges faced in developing the mine.

The court’s ruling highlighted concerns over the potential threat to water quality posed by the mine. According to the court ruling, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) failed to adequately assess the mine’s impact on water quality and did not thoroughly consider compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Furthermore, it was noted that the MPCA did not genuinely engage in reasoned decision-making in dealing with concerns that were raised by the Environmental Protection Agency.

This setback comes in the wake of the US Army Corps of Engineers earlier also revoking a key federal wetlands permit required for the mine’s operation. The decision was owing to concerns that the project could lead to downstream pollution on the reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

NewRange Copper Nickel, which is owned by Glencore and Teck Resources, is aiming to build what would be the state’s first mine for copper, nickel and precious metals. The company’s proposal involves constructing an openpit mine and transporting the ore to an old taconite facility for further processing. 

Over its first full five years of operations, NorthMet is expected to deliver yearly payable production of 30 000 t of copper, 3 600 t of nickel, 58 000 oz of palladium, and 12 000 oz of platinum.