A controversial proposed copper and nickel mine project south of Ely has hired two huge engineering firms to help prepare the project for formal environmental and regulatory review.
Two weeks ago, Twin Metals contracted with Bechtel for a preliminary review of the project's feasibility. Now, the company has hired the firm URS as its lead environmental consultant.
Mining opponents fear the projects could lead to severe water pollution from acidic runoff. A similar proposed mine, Polymet, has been in environmental review for years.
Duluth Metals President Vern Baker expects the environmental review process to last several years.
"You already see a certain amount of rhetoric about what different people think mining means to northern Minnesota," Baker said. "We fully expect that there's going to be a large and ongoing dialogue."
URS paid over $50 million to victims of the 35W bridge collapse to settle allegations the company failed to adequately inspect the bridge.