MN Supreme Court rules against PolyMet

Advocacy By Pete Marshall

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court struck down PolyMet’s permit to mine.

PolyMet has no permit to mine.

PolyMet cannot put a shovel in the ground.


Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa won. The people of Duluth won, and so did everyone who cares about clean water and our shared future.

Executive Director of Friends of the Boundary Waters speaks on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol.
After the ruling, Executive Director of Friends of the Boundary Waters speaks at the Minnesota State Capitol

Here are the two takeaways from the high court’s decision:

1) Before issuing PolyMet’s Permit to Mine, DNR was required to hold a contested case hearing before an impartial judge. They did not. Specifically, the Supreme Court said that such a hearing is needed to determine if whether the proposed storage facility, which would use a clay bentonite cover, will effectively prevent the acid mine drainage produced by the mine from seeping into the surrounding water.

Basically, DNR would have allowed PolyMet to build an airplane while flying.

2) The DNR failed to uphold the law by issuing a forever permit to PolyMet, that would have allowed PolyMet to operate without a fixed end date for when the mining would stop and for cleaning up and reclaiming the land (according to Minnesota law they are required to restore the area to the same condition it was before they mined). According to PolyMet’s own modeling, pollution from the proposed mine would last over 200 years after operations came to an end. Granting them a forever permit would allow them to avoid clean up and responsibility.

The Supreme Court said no.

Next Steps for Minnesota and Clean Water

PolyMet has no permit. If they want to move forward, they need to start over, they need to begin again.

Maybe this time DNR will be less eager to do the bidding of a Swiss mining conglomerate, Glencore, which owns PolyMet. Maybe this time they will team up with the people of Minnesota instead of Glencore.

The court’s decision is further proof that this process, and these permits, are riddled with errors. A week ago, a federal investigation blasted the EPA for failing to provide proper oversight on PolyMet. The Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency has destroyed documents in an attempt to conceal concerns that PolyMet would violate the Clean Water Act. Legislators have attempted to pass laws to make it easier for this industry to pollute.

Though the agencies failed to protect us, and though politicians did countless favors for PolyMet, the people are still in control.

The people of Minnesota are pushing back and we are winning.

Trust in DNR and MPCA is shattered. Rather than defend our water and land, they teamed up with a Swiss mining conglomerate in an attempt to ram through a toxic copper-sulfide mine. There is still much work to be done. We need better protection against the corrupting and polluting industry.

But our laws need to be updated. We need practical, commonsense action.

We need a Prove It First Law in Minnesota.

Pete Marshall is the communications director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

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