Supporters of the proposed PolyMet project won the field Wednesday night in Aurora on the Iron Range, but on Thursday evening in Duluth opponents of Minnesota’s first-ever copper mine made their case.
About 1,500 people attended the public meeting on permits for the proposed mine — about two-to-one against the project — with dozens on both sides speaking at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
It was the second of two meetings held to take public comments on the most important of 21 permits PolyMet needs in hand before it can begin to mine copper, nickel and other valuable metals near Babbitt and process them in an old taconite plant near Hoyt Lakes.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency released the draft permits last month and will take comments into March. They’ll then weight the public reaction and determine if any changes are needed. If not, the final permits could be in PolyMet’s hands late this year.
Opponents of copper mining and its potential of acidic runoff have pledged that, if major changes aren’t made in the permit conditions, they’ll demand contested case hearings, file lawsuits to stop the permits, or both. Many opponents in the crowd Thursday wore or waved orange bandanas, a silent sign of protest against the mine, they said, and for clean water.
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