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MAZINAIGANPAGE6SPRINGSUMMER2014MININGCHRONOLOGYGLIFWCinvolvementintheenvironmentalreviewoftheproposedPolyMetCopperMineByEstebanChiribogaGLIFWCGISMappingShouldtheStateofMinnesotapermititsfirstnon-ironmetalsmineWhatwouldtheenvironmentalimpactsbeAretheylikelytobeoutweighedbyeconomicbenefitsWhatwouldtheimpactsbetotribesthatholdoff-reservationrightstoharvestonthelandthatwouldbeexcavatedtodevelopthemineThesearesomeofthequestionsthattheStateofMinnesotaandseveralfederalagenciesareconsideringastheydecidewhethertoissuepermitsforthatstatesfirstsulfideminetheNorthmetprojectproposedbythePolyMetMiningCorporation.AlthoughMinnesotaishometoanumberofirontaconiteminesnomineshavebeendevelopedthatwouldextractmetalslikecoppernickelzincandgold.Thesemetalstendtobeboundtosulfurandso-calledsulfideminingposesaheightenedriskofmetalleachingandacidminedrainagewhenthemetalsaremined.Acidminedrainagehasdam-agedthousandsofmilesofstreamsinotherstatesintheUS.ConcernsaboutimpactstowaterqualitywetlandstreatyrightsandtraditionalpropertiesaswellasthecumulativeimpactsofminingontheIronRangepromptedtribestogetinvolvedintheevaluationoftheenvironmentalimpactsoftheproposedPolyMetmine.SinceifpermittedthePolyMetprojectwouldbethefirstsulfidemineinthestatetribeswerealsoawarethatthestateandfederalagenciesapproachtoenvironmentalanalysisandpermittingwouldbelikelytoinfluencetheevaluationoffuturesulfideminingproposals.GLIFWCstafffirstbecameinvolvedinanalyzingtheenvi-ronmentalimpactsoftheproposedPolyMetminein2005whentheArmyCorpsofEngineersACOEandMinnesotaDepartmentofNaturalResourcesMNDNRconductedpreliminaryscopingofenvironmentalissuesrelatedtotheproject.In2006GLIFWCbeganattendingtechnicalmeetingsrelatedtotheprojectattherequestoftheFondduLacBandofLakeSuperiorChippewaoneofitsmembertribes.AtthattimethePolyMetMiningCompanyhadbegunreleasingtechnicalminingdocumentsandtheACOEandtheMNDNRtheleadagenciesintheEnvironmentalImpactStatementEISprocessbeganmeetingstoinformtribesandotheragenciesaboutprojectissues.Duringtheearlymeetingsnumerousconcernsrelatedtowetlandlossimpactstowaterqualityandwatertabledrawdownwereidentified.TheFondduLacBoisForteandGrandPortageChippewabandsrequestedthattheArmyCorpsofEngineersACOEinvitethemtobecomecooperatingagenciesintheEISprocess.HowevertheACOEdidnotactonthisrequestuntilaftertheStateofMinnesotasscopingperiodhadended.Theeffectofthisdelaywasthatissuesadvancedbythetribesintheearlyperiodlikegroundwaterquan-tityandqualityweremostlyoverlookedbytheMNDNR.FondduLacandBoisForteeventuallybecamecooperatingagencies.SincethenGLIFWCstaffhavecontinuedtoprovidetechnicalassistanceinseveralareasastheenvironmentalanalysisoftheproposedPolyMetprojectwasdeveloped.Thishasincludedanalysisofmineinduceddrawdowneffectsonwetlandsanalysisofflowinlocalriverspredictionofnoiselevelsneartheminemappingofwildricebedsevaluationofalternativessuchasundergroundminingandminepitbackfillevaluationofcumulativeimpactsandmodelingofground-waterhydrology.Thoseanalyseshaveplayedaroleindevelopingcommentsontheprojectandpointingtoareasthatneedadditionalclarificationandbaselinedata.Projectproposal2007In2007aformalprojectdescriptionwassubmittedbyPolyMetMiningCorp.Itproposedsevenunlinedanduncappedwasterockstockpilesallowingforreleaseofcontaminatedwaternotreatmentforwaterescapingthetailingsfacilityminimalstormwaterandtailingswaterseepagecollectionover1000acresofwetlandfillandnobackfilloftheopenpits.MinimalcoverforaportionofexposedVirginiaformationaformationwiththepotentialtogenerateacidwasproposed.Therewasnodoubtthatifthisinitialproposalhadbeenpermittedseriouspollutionwouldhaveoccurredtothesurroundingenvironment.Inaddi-tionPolyMetsuggestedthatperpetualwaterqualitytreatmentwaslikelytobenecessary.Theprojectleadstatedthatwatertreatmentwouldlikelybeneededforforeverandaday.JimScottPolyMetprojectmanagermeetingofJanuary302007St.PaulMN.Theprojectproposalwasanalyzedforenvironmentalimpactsoverthenexttwoyears.Unfortunatelytheapplicanthadnotcollectedadequatebaselinewaterqualityandquantitydatasoconclusionsaboutpotentialimpactswerebasedonmodelsthatdidnotadequatelydescribethebaselinehydrologyofthesite.GLIFWCandothertribalstaffarguedbeginningin2008thatthebasichydrologyoftheminesitewaspoorlycharacterizedmakingconclusionsregardingwaterqualityquantitywetlandimpactsandwatertreatmentneedsunreliable.DevelopmentoftherstDEIS2008-2009Between2008and2009GLIFWCstaffreviewedseveraliterationsofthePolyMetEISdocument.InJulyof2009theCompletePreliminaryDraftEISDEISwasreleased.GLIFWCandtribalstaffcommentedextensivelyonthisdraftandafirstDEISwasissuedinOctoberof2009.TheOctober2009DEISpresentedchallengesfortribalagenciesandstaff.Oneofthebenefitsofcooperatingagencystatuswasthatdifferencesofopinionwiththeleadagencieshadtobeincludedanddiscussedinthedocument.Howeverexactlyhowthosecommentsandopinionswouldberepresentedwasnotclear.Tribalstaffdevelopedextensivecommentsonthe2009DEIStextandtheanalysisunderlyingthedocumentandwasassuredbytheACOEthattribalperspectivesandanalysiswouldbeincludedverbatiminthedocument.Aftersignificantdis-cussionandnegotiationtheACOEwasabletofacilitatetheinclusionoftribalcommentsasbothfootnotesandinaseparatechapter.ThisepisodeunderscoredthedifficultiesthatGLIFWCandtribalagencystaffencounteredwhileadvocatingforamorerobustenvironmentalanalysisoftheproject.Thereviewofthe2009DEISbythepublicandotheragencieswasextensive.GLIFWCandothertribalstaffreissuedmanyofthecommentsthathadbeenpreparedforpreviousversionsoftheDEISandwerestillrelevantaswellasnewinformationandanalysis.UltimatelytheEnvironmentalProtectionAgencyEPAwhichreviewedtheEISgaveittheworstapprovalratingavailableindicat-ingthatintheEPAsopinionboththeproposedprojectandthedocumentthatwassupposedtodescribetheimpactsofthatprojectwereunacceptable.TheEPAexpressedmanyofthesameconcernsthattribalstaffhadbeenraisingforthepre-vioustwoyears.TheEPAsratingmeantthatanewDEISneededtobepreparedbeforeafinalEIScouldbecompleted.DevelopmentoftheSupplementalDEIS2010-2013Thefailureofthe2009DEISmotivatedtheleadagenciestomakestructuralchangestotheprocess.FirsttheU.S.ForestServicejoinedtheprocessasaleadagencybecauseofthelandexchangethatisanintegralpartoftheproject.TheprojectisproposedtobebuiltonwhatiscurrentlyForestServiceland.Inthe2009DEISitwassimplyassumedthatthelandexchangewouldoccur.InadditiontheEPAandGrandPortagejoinedtheprocessascooperatingagencies.ACom-municationandCoordinationProtocolCCPwasdevelopedduringthistimeinanattempttodescribeeachagencysroleandresponsibilitiesbutthetribalcoop-eratingagenciesfoundittoorestrictiveanddidnotendorseit.Neverthelesstheyremainedcooperatingagenciesactivelyparticipatingintheprocess.Thefirststepin2010towarddevelopingtheSupplementalDraftEnviron-mentalImpactStatementSDEISwastoformImpactAssessmentPlanningIAPgroupsthatwouldproviderecommendationstoPolyMetontheanalysisthatwouldGLIFWCanalysisofwetlandsimpactedbygroundwaterdrawdownattheproposedPolyMetmineinMinnesota.AportionoftheprocessingfacilityatthePolyMetplantsite.Theoldtaconiteprocessingfacilitywouldbeconvertedtoprocesscopperore.SeeGLIFWCassessesimpactpage8