Minnesota-based NewRange Copper Nickel, a joint venture between Teck Resources and PolyMet Mining, is reviewing its options to chart a course forward for its NorthMet development, after the US Army Corps of Engineers this week suspended the mine’s permit.
Corps officials revoked the Clean Water Section 404 permit, stating that it did not ensure compliance with water quality requirements of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The Corps initially completed its record of decision and issued a Section 404 Clean Water Act individual permit for regulated activities at the NorthMet project in March 2019. At that time, Corps officials determined the project was compliant with all applicable federal laws and regulations. The Corps subsequently suspended the permit in March 2021, at the request of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), while the EPA considered effects from the project under Section 401(a)(2) of the Clean Water Act to water quality downstream in the state of Wisconsin and within the Band’s Reservation.
The EPA issued a “may affect” determination to the Band and the state of Wisconsin in June 2021. The Band submitted an objection to the permit and its “will affect” determination a few months later, and requested the Corps hold a public hearing.
The Band provided the Corps with information that the NortMet project would violate its water quality requirements. The Corps said that the EPA had agreed with the Band.
NewRange disagrees with the Band and EPA, saying that the planned NorthMet project is protective of water, air and other resources.
“The project clearly shows that through its proposed water treatment and management processes, it will remove more than 1 400 t/y of sulphate from the St Louis river system, the result of historic iron-ore mining operations.
“It will also lead to a net reduction in pre-existing mercury loading to the river system,” NewRange said.
Besides NorthMet, NewRange also owns the Mesaba deposit, in Minnesota.