Duluth meeting provides opportunities for public comment on NorthMet Supplemental Draft EIS

The first of three public meetings on PolyMet Mining’s proposed copper-nickel mine will be held at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) at 350 Harbor Drive, Duluth, on Thursday, Jan. 16, from 5 – 10 p.m. Doors will open at 5 p.m.

Onsite parking in the DECC parking lot is available for $5. Additional parking information is posted online.

The three meetings are designed for the public to learn more about the environmental effects of the proposed PolyMet Inc.’s NorthMet mine project in northeastern Minnesota near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt. Attendees will also have an opportunity to offer comments regarding the adequacy and completeness of the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).

The Duluth public meeting will begin with an open house hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service. Fifteen informational stations and representatives from state, federal and cooperating agencies will be available so participants can ask questions and discuss aspects of the SDEIS. A video outlining the project proposal and the environmental review analysis will be available for viewing.

Public statements will be heard in an adjacent room, during the open house. This portion of the meeting will begin with a formal presentation at 6:45 p.m., followed by public comments, concluding at 10 p.m. The Duluth public meeting will also serve as the Army Corps of Engineers’ 404 permit public hearing.

“Because we expect a large turnout, it is unlikely that we will be able to accommodate everyone who wishes to speak during the public meeting,” said Steve Colvin, deputy director, DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division. “But everyone will have an opportunity to provide input in some form and should know that their comments will be given full consideration regardless of how those comments are submitted.”

The host agencies have engaged an independent facilitator who will select speakers at random from among all those attendees expressing a desire to speak. “We are confident that this will allow us to hear from the greatest number and diversity of speakers as possible in a respectful and fair process,” Colvin said.

Meeting attendees will also have the option of submitting comments in writing on comment forms or by speaking one-on-one to a stenographer who will record oral comments.

All interested parties may also provide written comments by mail, email, or via the DNR’s website. People may submit multiple comments.

“The method of commenting isn’t critical,” Colvin said. “The value of the comment is in the quality and specificity of the information provided.”

All written comments become a part of the final EIS record and are public information. Written comments will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on March 13.

Following the public comment period, the DNR and co-lead agencies will review all comments, respond to substantive comments, adjust the SDEIS if needed and ultimately publish a final EIS for public review.

PolyMet’s proposed project remains in the “environmental review” phase and public input on the SDEIS is an important component of this phase. The environmental review is not the approval phase of the project, which would occur during the permitting process.

Additional public meetings will be held at the Mesabi East High School in Aurora on Jan. 22 and at the St. Paul RiverCentre in St. Paul on Jan. 28. The meeting format is expected to be similar at each event.

The public can review and comment on the SDEIS through the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/polymet. The website includes the SDEIS, an executive summary, a series of fact sheets and a video designed to help the public understand the proposed project.