DNR decides Minntac mine extension does not require an environmental impact statementThe Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has determined that the environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) process for a proposed extension at the Minntac mine near Mountain Iron has provided adequate information on potential environmental effects.
By: DNR press release, Pine Journal
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has determined that the environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) process for a proposed extension at the Minntac mine near Mountain Iron has provided adequate information on potential environmental effects. The DNR’s decision, called a negative declaration, means an environmental impact statement (EIS) will not be required.
The mine’s owner, U.S. Steel, proposes a 483-acre extension to its Minntac facility where it currently employs more than 1,400 workers. The extension would not include an increase in the rate of production or annual volume, but is intended to increase the life of the facility by approximately 16 years. The proposed extension would result in about a 5 percent increase in the size of the mine pits on adjacent land leased by the company.
The EAW process is an assessment of the proposed project, coupled with a public comment period, to identify impacts to the environment and surrounding communities, and identify potential mitigation strategies that can be addressed through future permitting.
During the 30-day EAW public review and comment period, the DNR received 202 written comment letters, emails and faxes from agencies or individuals. Of those who recommended the preparation of an EIS, the comments largely focused on cumulative effects of past mining activities combined with effects from the proposed extension. Specific topics of concern included stream loss, watershed alteration, and water quality impacts from mine pit discharge and tailings basin seepage.
Of note, each of those environmental effects is subject to ongoing public regulatory authority by the DNR, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and can be addressed through the permitting process, according to Steve Colvin, deputy director of the DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources Division.
“We have identified specific measures that DNR and the other regulatory agencies have determined could mitigate anticipated impacts,” he said. “For example, the company is under a schedule of compliance from MPCA to address existing water quality issues associated with the tailings basin. We are confident of MPCA’s regulatory authority to address water quality issues associated with both the existing mine, as well as the proposed project.”
The Minntac extension project will now be considered for permitting. Permit applications are subject to additional public review and comment periods.
Under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act, the DNR serves as the state’s responsible governmental unit for metallic mineral mining and processing projects. In that role, the DNR works closely with the MPCA, other agencies and local units of government to ensure adherence to the state’s environmental laws during project construction and operation. In addition, the Mineland Reclamation Act, adopted by the Minnesota Legislature in 1969, assigns the DNR with administering and enforcing the program to return previously mined land to a safe and usable condition.