Environmental impact statement not required for Northshore Mining expansion

The Department of Natural Resources has determined that the environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) process for a proposed expansion at the Peter Mitchell Mine near Babbitt in northeastern Minnesota has provided adequate information on potential environmental effects.

The DNR’s decision, called a negative declaration, means an environmental impact statement (EIS) will not be required. This determination is based on the extent of anticipated environmental effects, agencies’ regulatory authority over the project, the project’s contribution to cumulative effects, and the availability of environmental studies that assist in predicting and controlling environmental effects.

The mine’s owner, Northshore Mining Company, proposes to expand its taconite mining operation at the Peter Mitchell Mine with a project titled Northshore Mining Company Progression of the Ultimate Pit Limit. The project includes mining an additional 108 acres and constructing an engineered stockpile to manage sulfur-bearing waste rock.

The proposed project has enough ore to support 5 to 10 years of mining and would begin after the required permits are acquired. Overall, the mine is expected to operate for another 70 years, at which time permanent closure and final reclamation will occur.

During the 30-day EAW public review and comment period, the DNR received more than 1,000 comment letters and emails from individuals, agencies and interest groups. Of those who recommended an EIS, the comments primarily focused on the sulfur content of some of the waste rock, the cumulative effects of past mining activities, and the anticipated environmental effects of the proposed pit expansion.

Other comments addressed water quality impacts, suitability of the stockpile design, impacts to wild rice from sulfate concentrations in discharges, and the adequacy of existing permits.

Environmental effects of the project are subject to ongoing regulatory authority by the DNR, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and will be addressed through the permitting process.

The proposed project will now be considered for permitting.

Permitting agencies will determine whether the proposed project can comply with all applicable environmental regulations and identify the specific actions required to avoid, minimize or mitigate potential impacts.

More information and a list of frequently asked questions about the project are available on the DNR website.

The DNR’s record of decision regarding its negative declaration will be published in the May 11 issue of the EQB Monitor.