Glencore ups it stake in controversial PolyMet mine

The giant Swiss metals conglomerate Glencore has made another major investment in PolyMet, the mining company hoping to open a controversial precious metals mine outside Hoyt Lakes, on the eastern edge of the Iron Range.

Glencore has agreed to purchase another 13.3 million shares of PolyMet at $1.50 per share, for a total investment of $20 million. Glencore now owns 24.1 percent of PolyMet’s stock (worth a total of roughly $125 million), with the option to increase its holdings to as much as 35.1 percent of PolyMet shares.

PolyMet spokeswoman LaTisha Gietzen called the cash infusion “a significant event.” She said it provides the mining company “funding for the next couple of years to get through the environmental review and permitting process.”

The Minnesota DNR, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are wrapping up work on a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project that’s expected to be released to the public in the second quarter of 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency criticized the initial EIS, raising concerns about wetlands, water quality and a land exchange between PolyMet and the Forest Service.

The proposed open-pit copper-nickel mine has drawn fire from critics raising concerns about the potential for acidic runoff to cause serious environmental damage in or near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Some environmentalists have expressed concern about Glencore’s track record as well. Polymet officials say they will protect the environment with containers for waste rock, and water treatment systems.

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