A Rundown of the PolyMet Scandal (Timeline)


Clean water and clean government.

It’s not unreasonable for the people of Minnesota to expect these two things.

We know that copper-sulfide mining is a threat to clean water.

It’s also a threat to clean government.

Granted, those who are eager for the proposed PolyMet copper-sulfide mine to break ground like to say Minnesota has some of the most stringent environmental laws in the country, and that the review process has been fair and transparent.

In June, a scandal came to light that blows the top off this wishful narrative.

Photo: Benjamin Olson

Photo: Benjamin Olson

It reveals that even the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was concerned that PolyMet’s wastewater permit would allow PolyMet to violate the Clean Water Act. Yet Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) suppressed these concerns and issued the permit.

Almost every week adds a new chapter to the scandal. In the flurry of developments, we’ve seen first hand how the process is stacked against the people of the Minnesota. It’s not just international companies we have to fight against, but the very government agencies who have been tasked with protecting our water, our environment, may be helping these polluting companies.

To catch you up, here is a timeline of events.

January, 2019 — A former EPA attorney receives complaints from whistleblowers who allege that, in reviewing the wastewater permit, EPA scientists were instructed to relay concerns by telephone — not in writing — effectively keeping the public in the dark about these concerns. This mine is too risky to brush aside science-based concerns. What else has been ignored?

June 11 — Suppressed documents surface that show EPA regulators had numerous, serious concerns with the wastewater permit for PolyMet, including the lack of numeric limits on pollutants that PolyMet could discharge into the waters.

June 12 — The EPA solicitor general announces an investigation into the handling of PolyMet’s permit.

June 18 A leaked email from the former MPCA Assistant Commissioner asks EPA to postpone making any comments on the permit, effectively keeping EPA’s concerns away from public scrutiny.

June 24 — State Representative Rick Hansen calls for Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor to investigate MPCA’s handling of the PolyMet permitting process.

June 25 — Based on “undisputed evidence” that “MPCA and EPA departed from typical procedures in addressing the NorthMet [PolyMet] permit” as well as “substantial evidence of procedural irregularities,” Minnesota Court of Appeals orders a hearing into MPCA’s suppression of EPA’s concerns regarding the wastewater permit.

June 27 — Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and over 30 other organizations, sends a letter to Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan demanding they stay the permits and investigate MPCA.

July 10 — Citing “substantial evidence of procedural irregularities,” the Minnesota Court of Appeals orders a lower court to look into matters concerning MPCA’s PolyMet wastewater permit.

July 17 — A leaked document emerges. It outlines the many reasons the EPA should have objected to PolyMet’s wastewater permit. Instead, scientific concerns were suppressed and the permits were issued.

July 25 — After Glencore, the notorious Swiss-based mining and commodities trading giant, takes control of PolyMet, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, along with 24 other organizations, sign a letter asking Attorney General Kieth Elison to investigate Glencore.

July 24 — 17 state legislatures sign onto a letter from Minnesota Senator John Marty, calling on Govenor Walz to suspend PolyMet’s permits.

August 5 — In a major victory for transparent government and clean water, Minnesota Court of Appeals rules to block PolyMet’s controversial wastewater permit.

Stop PolyMet (1).jpg


So far, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz have tried to ignore this issue. Call Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. Tell them that this will not go away. Demand that they:

  • Stay the PolyMet permits

  • Investigate the improper conduct of MPCA

CALL TIM WALZ (651) 201-3400 

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