- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015
DNR releases latest revision to PolyMet environmental review

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The latest environmental review for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota has swollen by more than a third to over 3,100 pages, reflecting nearly 58,000 statements that poured in during a comment period and opinions expressed at three heavily attended public meetings.

The state Department of Natural Resources submitted the review of the $650 million project, which environmentalists have opposed, to state, federal and tribal agencies on Monday, and made it available Tuesday to individuals and groups who requested copies under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

While the DNR said the vast majority of the new comments were form letters spearheaded by various interest groups, there were also nearly 4,000 original submissions. The agency said it extracted more than 16,000 “unique, substantive comments,” which it tried to address in a 750-page appendix by grouping them into 24 themes, ranging from air and water quality issues to cultural and socioeconomics concerns.

PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposed open-pit NorthMet mine near Babbitt and processing plant near Hoyt Lakes would be Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mining operation. It’s expected to create hundreds of jobs in a struggling area and set the pattern for environmental protections for future nonferrous mining projects in the vast, untapped copper, nickel and precious metals deposits in northeastern Minnesota.

Environmentalists object because the metals are locked in sulfide-bearing minerals that can leach sulfuric acid and other pollutants when exposed to air and water. The new draft says the project won’t have a significant impact on water quality. But it also says the wastewater will require pollution controls indefinitely, and that it’s not possible to predict when the need would end.

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DNR puts mineral leases up for sale in NE Minnesota

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced plans to sell mineral leases in northeast Minnesota, opening a pathway to valuable deposits of copper, nickel and precious metals.

The leases lie under 103,000 acres of land in northeast Minnesota largely away from traditional mining areas, Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday (https://bit.ly/1Hd3cyFhttps://bit.ly/1Hd3cyF ). It’s the first such sale since 2012.

The biggest potential area is some 47,000 acres around the Cloquet Valley State Forest, about 30 miles north of Duluth, where large concentrations of platinum have been identified. Some environmentalists said they’re worried that exploration could foul drainage into the Cloquet River, which eventually reaches Lake Superior.

“You can go 20 miles north and be in a very, very wild place, so this is something that I think the people of Duluth should be aware of,” said Kristin Larsen, founder of Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest, who lives about two miles from one of the proposed leasing sites. “This would be a major change to our region if this were mined.”

Several landowners reacted to the 2012 sale by arguing that it should be subject to environmental review, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled a year later that such review was only necessary after a company proposes a specific exploration project.

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Charges: Walmart suspect pointed gun in officer’s face

. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Prosecutors say a Wisconsin man pointed a weapon inches from a police officer’s face in St. Paul last weekend.

Thirty-four-year-old James Frei of Tomah, Wisconsin, was charged Tuesday with possession of a firearm, second-degree assault and fleeing a police officer.

Police say Officer Michael Tschida (CHEE’-dah) was working off-duty at a Walmart Sunday and confronted Frei after suspecting he was shoplifting.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1GFTEe9https://bit.ly/1GFTEe9 ) reports security camera footage shows Frei pointing a gun in Tschida’s face.

According to the complaint, Tschida slapped the gun away and drew his own weapon. Frei ran to a pickup and pointed a gun at Tschida a second time.

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MNsure starts search for permanent chief executive

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s health insurance exchange is looking for a permanent leader.

MNsure opened applications this week for its executive director position. The opening was prompted by CEO Scott Leitz’s departure in May.

The next chief executive will be the third in just two years at the beleaguered insurance exchange. MNsure’s board plans to review applicants through the summer and select a new executive director in mid-September.

It’s unclear if the current interim CEO will apply. Allison O’Toole stepped up to take Leitz’s position until a permanent replacement is named.

The position pays up to $140,000 a year. MNsure is also looking for a chief financial officer.

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