Rejecting a request by leading environmental groups, the state Department of Natural Resources said Thursday it will not extend the period for public comment on environmental issues connected with a copper-nickel mine proposed for northeastern Minnesota.
In a letter submitted in December, a coalition of advocacy groups argued that Minnesotans need more than 90 days to review a voluminous environmental impact study prepared for PolyMet Mining Corp.'s proposal, especially because copper mining and its potential hazards are new to Minnesota.
The DNR said Thursday it has tried to ensure that the public has "ample'' opportunity for review and comment, and said the petitioners had not raised any substantive arguments that had not already been considered. The agency noted that the 90-day comment period is already twice the length required by law.
Comments will be due by the original deadline, March 13.
The DNR has conducted three heavily attended public hearings on the PolyMet proposal since December and, according to a statement Thursday, received more than 19,000 written comments.
PolyMet, a Canada-based minerals company, has proposed an open-pit mine and ore processing facility near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt. The prospect of new industry and 350 jobs has stirred hopes for a renaissance on Minnesota's Iron Range. But the potential of contaminants and mining byproducts being released in the Superior National Forest and near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has caused alarm among many environmentalists.