PolyMet stock skyrockets on court decision over water permit

Photo: PolyMet

Shares of PolyMet skyrocketed more than 75% during Friday’s morning session after a Ramsey County District Court judge found that Minnesota regulators did not break permitting rules for the company’s proposed copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt.

In his decision, Judge John H. Guthmann rejected the allegations that MPCA engaged in a systematic effort to keep evidence out of the administrative record. Those allegations had been made by the relators Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, WaterLegacy, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Judge Guthmann made his findings after presiding over a seven-day hearing in St. Paul in January and extensive briefing from the parties.

Judge Guthmann found no evidence that the MPCA attempted to suppress EPA comments. Indeed, the court observed that the process for PolyMet’s permit involved “significantly more interaction between the EPA and the MPCA than with the usual NPDES permit.” The court determined that “[a]t no time did the MPCA try to discourage or prevent the EPA from submitting written comments on either the pre-proposed permit or the final permit.” The court found that MPCA’s effort to reach an agreement with EPA to delay making written comments on a draft NorthMet NPDES permit until sometime after the public notice period did not constitute a procedural irregularity. The court concluded that the MPCA exceeded the requirements of the Memorandum of Agreement between EPA and MPCA.

The district court’s conclusion that no procedural irregularities occurred in the processing of PolyMet’s permit will be incorporated into the broader challenge to that permit currently pending before the court of appeals. In that case, environmental groups and the Fond du Lac Band have challenged the MPCA’s decision to issue the permit and its denial of a contested-case hearing. The court of appeals will decide the schedule for briefing and oral argument.

“We are pleased with the district court’s ruling and look forward to defending the challenge to the water permit currently pending in the court of appeals,” said Jon Cherry, chairman, president and CEO. “We remain confident the water quality permit meets all applicable standards and will ultimately be upheld by the courts.”

The district court decision comes on the heels of the Minnesota Supreme Court this spring granting the company’s and regulators’ petitions to review court of appeals’ rulings on its Permit to Mine, dam safety and air quality permits. The Minnesota Supreme Court recently scheduled oral argument in the Permit to Mine appeal for October 13, 2020.

PolyMet is a mine development company that owns 100% of the NorthMet Project, the first large-scale project to be permitted within the Duluth Complex in northeastern Minnesota, one of the world’s major, undeveloped mining regions. NorthMet has significant proven and probable reserves of copper, nickel and palladium – metals vital to global carbon reduction efforts – in addition to marketable reserves of cobalt, platinum and gold.