State’s new PolyMet consultant in line for $309K

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The road leading to Polymet as seen Thursday, October 10, 2013 near Aurora, Minn.

A consultant the Department of Natural Resources will use to assist in the permitting and financial review of the PolyMet Mining Corp. project will earn up to $309,000, according to a recently executed contract obtained Thursday by MPR News.

The contract with Emmons and Oliver Resources Inc. was signed last week. It's distinct from an arrangement the state reached in December with a Washington D.C.-based law firm to prepare for potential legal action stemming from permitting decisions that will be made as soon as this year. As part of Gov. Mark Dayton's supplemental budget, the DNR asked for as much as $4 million for a project legal fund.

The state is using Oakdale-based Emmons to evaluate financial aspects of the proposed copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes. Dayton has said his administration will demand financial assurance as part of any permits as a contingency against problems and terms for reclamation of the site once mining is complete many years in the future.

A DNR spokesman says the contract and the work associated with it is paid for by PolyMet.  He noted the company also paid for the Environmental Impact Statement and related work. The DNR has already received approximately $218,000 from PolyMet for the work.  The remaining payment for the balance is due in June of 2016.

Subcontractors  Spectrum Engineering and JLT Specialty USA will join in the task as part of the new agreement, which was first reported by The Duluth News Tribune.

The contract requires the consultants to "review, evaluate and assess the financial assurance proposals being submitted by PolyMet for its NorthMet project, including deficiencies, omissions and recommendations on financial assurance amounts and financial instruments." The stability of the mining company's venture and guarantees are also part of the analysis.

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Last month, the DNR said a comprehensive environmental analysis of PolyMet was adequate, pushing the project to the stage where owners could apply for the nearly two dozen permits it will need to operate.

If authorized, PolyMet is projected to create 500 construction jobs and 360 full-time positions. The mine is expected to have a 20-year lifespan. Environmental groups worry about the potential for pollution from the first-of-its-kind mine project in the state.

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