WaterLegacy’s Comments on PolyMet’s Mine Plan (SDEIS)

Read WaterLegacy’s Comments on PolyMet’s Revised Mine Proposal (SDEIS)

The public comment period closed March 13, 2014 on PolyMet’s NorthMet Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).

After lengthy review of the PolyMet NorthMet SDEIS and thousands of pages of other technical materials, WaterLegacy concluded,

“[T]he SDEIS is inadequate and the project is likely to pose significant adverse impacts to the environment, to human health, to environmental justice and to tribal rights and resources. The SDEIS is data poor, and its modeled outcomes are determined by unsubstantiated and unreasonable assumptions, rather than by empirical information and field experience.”

Basic information required to evaluate PolyMet’s proposed action, such as a water balance and loading of solutes in process water flows, is not presented. Fundamental modeling, like Partridge River baseflow, is erroneous. Cited literature is misrepresented and information selectively presented, suggesting advocacy for the project, rather than an independent assessment of its probable outcomes. WaterLegacy Comments emphasized,

“The PolyMet proposed action described in the SDEIS also fails to satisfy Clean Water Act Section 404 requirements. The SDEIS does not demonstrate that the project is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative or that its impacts on aquatic resources of national importance will be mitigated. The proposed Land Exchange serves a narrow private interest, rather than the public interest, and contradicts both federal policy and federal fiduciary responsibilities to protect tribal resources.”

WaterLegacy highlighted our concern that some of the most significant adverse impacts of its proposal – indirect destruction of high value wetlands in the Partridge River watershed near the mine site and increases in methylmercury contamination of fish – were inadequately analyzed in the SDEIS, resulting in a violation of and calling into question the entire PolyMet environmental review exercise.

Read WaterLegacy Official SDEIS Comments »

With WaterLegacy’s comments, we submitted expert reports from Dr. Brian Branfireun, an internationally-recognized mercury and methylmercury expert; Bruce Johnson, a retired chemist who worked for three decades as a state environmental regulator; Dr. Don Lee, an engineer and hydrologist with a 31-year career of environmental analysis at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and J.D. Lehr, a professional geologist familiar with the specific geology of the proposed PolyMet project site. Dr. Branfireun has supplied a folder containing his references and Mr. Lehr has included a set of illustrative maps and figures with his technical review. We also submitted 54 exhibits supporting our comments.

Read Expert Materials Submitted with WaterLegacy Comments

  1. Brian Branfireun, Expert Opinion concerning PolyMet SDEIS with curriculum vitae
    Dr. Brian Branfireun concluded, “Discharges of sulfate and total mercury and hydrologic changes to peatlands at the project site have the potential to significantly increase methylmercury in downstream wetlands and surface waters.”

    Branfireun Citations:Branfireun et al 1996Branfireun et al 2005Branfireun et al 2009Branfireun & Roulet 2002
    Coleman-Wasik et al 2012Devito & Hill 1999Grigal et al 2000Harris et al 2007Helsel 2006
    Knightes et al 2009Mitchell et al 2008aMitchell et al 2008bMunthe et al 2007Siegel & Glaser 1987
    Sorensen et al 2005Ulanowski & Branfireun 2013US EPA 2002Whittington & Price 2006Whittington & Price 2013
  2. Bruce Johnson, Review of PolyMet SDEIS with curriculum vitae.
  3. Don Lee, Review of PolyMet SDEIS with curriculum vitae.
  4. J.D. Lehr, Review of PolyMet SDEIS with curriculum vitae.
    JD Lehr Figures: Fig. 1 | Fig. 2 | Fig. 3 | Fig. 4 | Fig. 5 | Fig. 6 | Fig. 7 | Fig. 8 | Fig. 9 | Fig. 10 | Fig. 11
Faulted Bedrock and Surface Topography Vicinity of Proposed Northmet Copper Mine
J.D. Lehr Figure 1, WaterLegacy Exhibit 6


Exhibits to WaterLegacy’s Comments

WaterLegacy’s comments include references to many supporting documents which were included as exhibits. Each exhibit is available for download below.

  1. Exhibit 1 – Barr, Flow Augmentation Report (Barr 2013a), Figure 1
  2. Exhibit 2 – Daniel Engstrom Comments on PolyMet NorthMet DEIS (2010)
  3. Exhibit 3 – Plant Site AERA, Mar. 25, 2013 (Barr 2013k), Large Figure 7.
  4. Exhibit 4 – PolyMet, Facility Mercury Mass Balance Analysis (RS66) Mar. 2007, Attachment A.
  5. Exhibit 5 – B. Johnson, MDNR, email to P. Maccabee, WaterLegacy re Probabilities Modeling DPA, Jan. 10, 2014.
  6. Exhibit 6 – Map, Faulted Bedrock and Surface Topography, Vicinity of the PolyMet Project, compiled by geologist J.D. Lehr.
  7. Exhibit 7 – Water Modeling Data Package – Mine Site, Mar. 8, 2013 (PolyMet 2013i) Large Figure 21.
  8. Exhibit 8 – MPCA and Cliffs Erie, Complaint and Consent Decree, Mar. 25, 2010.
  9. Exhibit 9 – Barr, Reverse Osmosis Pilot Test Report SD026 Active Treatment Evaluation Prepared for Cliffs Erie LLC and PolyMet Mining Inc. June 2013, report narrative.
  10. Exhibit 10 – G. Kruse, MDNR, Memorandum, Partridge River Base Flow Analysis MDNR Gage #H03155002, Dec. 17, 2013.
  11. Exhibit 11 – MDNR, Questions and answers about new river flow data for proposed PolyMet mining project, Jan. 28, 2014.
  12. Exhibit 12 – B. Johnson, MDNR email to P. Maccabee, WaterLegacy re Upper Partridge River Baseflow, DPA request of Jan. 31, 2014.
  13. Exhibit 13 – PolyMet, Rock and Overburden Management Plan (PolyMet 2012s), Figure 2-3.
  14. Exhibit 14 – Track Changes PSDEIS, Draft Chapter 5.02.02 Water, Figure 5.2.2-18, East Pit Sulfate.
  15. Exhibit 15 – E. Walts, EPA letter to USFS, MDNR, USACE, Aug. 7, 2013, Comments on PSDEIS.
  16. Exhibit 16 – Track Changes PSDEIS, Draft Chapter 5.02.02 Water.
  17. Exhibit 17 – Track Changes PSDEIS, Draft Chapter 5.02.02 Water, Figure 5.2.2-19, with WQS for cobalt.
  18. Exhibit 18 – B. Johnson, MDNR email to P. Maccabee, WaterLegacy, DPA request re seepage collection field experience, Oct. 7, 2013 and Nov. 12, 2013.
  19. Exhibit 19 – J. Thomas, MPCA letter to T. Moe, U.S. Steel Corp., re Minntac, Jan. 8, 2008.
  20. Exhibit 20 – C. Bartovich, U.S. Steel Corp. letter to J. Bathke, USACE, July 9, 2013, Excerpts.
  21. Exhibit 21 – Map, Selected Glacial Landforms, LTVSMC Tailings Basin Vicinity, prepared by geologist J.D. Lehr.
  22. Exhibit 22 – Map, Historic USGS Quadrangle Map Vicinity of LTVSMC Tailings Basin 1949.
  23. Exhibit 23 – Map, Original Surface Drainage and Current Topography, Vicinity of LTVSMC Tailings Basin, prepared by geologist J.D. Lehr.
  24. Exhibit 24 – D. Lee email to P. Maccabee, WaterLegacy regarding ephemeral streams, Jan. 4, 2014.
  25. Exhibit 25 – Cliffs Erie, NPDES Permit #MN0042536 Hoyt Lakes Mine Area Supplemental Information & Request for Variance Apr. 2012, p. 4; Variance Addendum Dec. 10, 2012, p. 20; Excerpts.
  26. Exhibit 26 – PolyMet, Mine Site WWTF Treatment Facility Design Plan, Nov. 30, 2012.
  27. Exhibit 27 – PolyMet, Hydrometallurgical Residue Characterization and Water Quality Model Draft Report RS33/RS65 (Feb. 2007)
  28. Exhibit 28 – MDNR, Fish and Wildlife/Fisheries, Comments on the May 2013 PolyMet PSDEIS (June 7, 2013).
  29. Exhibit 29 – B. Mathur, EPA to Col. J. L. Christensen, USACE, DEIS Comment, (Feb. 18, 2010).
  30. Exhibit 30 – Map Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) Sites of Biodiversity Significance in the Vicinity of the PolyMet Mine Site, prepared by M. Tyler.
  31. Exhibit 31 – Paul H. Glaser Comments on PolyMet NorthMet DEIS (2010).
  32. Exhibit 32 – A. Walts, EPA letter to USFS, MDNR, and USACE re PolyMet PSDEIS, Aug. 7, 2013.
  33. Exhibit 33 – J. Willging, USACE letter to P. Maccabee, WaterLegacy, re wetlands FOIA, Dec. 11, 2013.
  34. Exhibit 34 – B. Mathur, EPA letter to Col. M.P. Crall, USACE re Ohio Valley Coal Co., Jan. 4, 2010.
  35. Exhibit 35 – S. Hedman, EPA letter to Col. D. Koprowsi, USACE re Unamin Corp. Aug. 20, 2013.
  36. Exhibit 36 – S. Hedman, EPA letter to Col. D. Koprowsi, USACE re Hawkes Peat, Aug. 9, 2013.
  37. Exhibit 37 – USFS, PolyMet Land Exchange Feasibility Analysis, Wetland, Lake Shoreline, Stream Frontage, and Floodplain Assessment (2009), Map of Watershed Drainage of Federal & Non-Federal Lands 
  38. Exhibit 38 – J. R. Pomponio, EPA letter to Col. D.R. Hurst, USACE re Highland Mining Company, Reylas Surface Mine (Mar. 23, 2009).
  39. Exhibit 39 – P. Cook, EPA, Can Amphibole Fibers/Particles Contribute to Mesothelioma and Other Asbestos Related Diseases in Northeast Minnesota? April 2013 Presentation.
  40. Exhibit 40 – J. Finnegan, J. Mandel, U of M, Annual Report to the Legislature Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study, Apr. 19, 2013.
  41. Exhibit 41 – U of M, Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study, Minnesota Taconite Workers Lung Health Partnership, April 12, 2013 Mountain Iron, MN Presentation.
  42. Exhibit 42 – EPA, An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska, Executive Summary, EPA 910-R-14-001ES, Jan. 2014.
  43. Exhibit 43 – M. Watkins, Grand Portage Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, testimony to Minnesota House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee, Feb. 11, 2014.
  44. Exhibit 44 – L. Yoshii, EPA, letter to R. Wenker, Bureau of Land Management, re Emigrant Project Revised Draft EIS, Elko County, Nevada, Mar. 23, 2009.
  45. Exhibit 45 – T. Hyde, EPA, Letter to C. O’Keefe, Mich. Dept. of Environmental Quality re Marquette County Road Commission, Apr. 23, 2012.
  46. Exhibit 46 – M. Sedlacek, EPA Letter to Co-Lead Agencies re underground mining, May. 15, 2012.
  47. Exhibit 47 – K. Westlake, EPA Letter to Co-Lead Agencies re underground mining, May. 31, 2012.
  48. Exhibit 48 – PolyMet, Presentation to InvestMNt Conference, Minneapolis, May 14, 2012, NorthMet Ore Body slide.
  49. Exhibit 49 – Foth, Evaluation of Backfilling the NorthMet West Pit, prepared for PolyMet Mining, Dec. 2012.
  50. Exhibit 50 – B. Monson, MPCA, St. Louis River Fish Mercury, Feb. 10. 2012.
  51. Exhibit 51 – R. Perciasepe, EPA, Memo to Assistant Administrators re Treaty rights, Jan. 8, 2013.
  52. Exhibit 52 – USACE, Public Notice, Modification of Department of the Army Permit 81-172- 13, Oct. 23, 2012.
  53. Exhibit 53 – Twin Metals, Mid-Prefeasibility Study PFS Update, January 2014.
  54. Exhibit 54 – Edison Investment Research, PolyMet Mining Corp. Report, Nov. 13, 2014.