Many in Hoyt Lakes Frustrated as Court of Appeals Halts PolyMet Permits

Many in town say after 15 years work, more delay is detrimental to the town.

HOYT LAKES, Minn.- A three judge panel said the Minnesota DNR made a mistake regarding the PolyMet NorthMet project, as the Minnesota Court of Appeals put a halt on two crucial permits.

“It feels like a slap in the face, to tell you the truth. It really does,” said Hoyt Lakes Mayor Chris Vreeland.

The word on the streets of Hoyt Lakes was “frustrated,” as the mine they’ve been waiting for for more than 15 years to bring new jobs and residents faces another big setback.

“You just have these people who are trying to dictate our lives up here, that don’t live up here,” said John Sweeney, owner of North Star Lanes in the town.

According to Mayor Vreeland, the city and PolyMet have done more than enough to get this project off the ground.

“It’s like they change the rules in the middle of the game on us,” he said. “We did everything we were supposed to and a judge out of the cities comes up and says ‘let’s start over, let’s throw these permits back?’ I, it’s very, very frustrating.”

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“I’d be curious to see if that judge has ever been up to the Iron Range.”

If that judge had been to the Iron Range and Hoyt Lakes in particular, Vreeland said, he would have seen an emptier small town with many empty storefronts.

“This whole mall area used to be filled end to end with businesses. And now what do we have–maybe four, five businesses in here?” Sweeney said. “We have a whole section of the mall area that’s been unoccupied for 15 years and it’s just, going to waste.”

Business owners in the city like Sweeney said not having the mine for this long has drastically reduced their income.

“We have such a limited patronage pool to pull from in this area,” he said. “We need more people up here to help the local business be sustained.”

“There’s not many businesses actually in Hoyt Lakes anymore,” said Pharmacist Mary Fossell at Thrifty White Pharmacy in the same mall as the bowling alley.

She said she’s seeing the lack of work push people, and their wallets, out of town. The mine would change that.

“People would, they’d be coming through town, y’know more people would move in here,” Fossell said. “So, there’s a lot of jobs out of town, and people go out of town and they spend their money out of town.”

The mine is expected to bring 400 jobs to the area, and around 800 spinoff jobs, Vreeland said.

At issue to the Court of Appeals were PolyMet’s permit to mine and its dam safety permits.

But any environmental concerns, according to Vreeland, have been more than dealt with.

“These issues have all been brought up and PolyMet has addressed them. The DNR–the state of Minnesota has the toughest environmental regulations of anywhere in the US. And we met every one of them. That’s what my point is to this whole thing.”

Yet another obstacle, Sweeney said, placed in front of a town already getting the short end of the stick.

“Once we see a little light at the end of the tunnel, someone makes the tunnel a little bit longer,” he said.

Now all the people of Hoyt Lakes can do is continue waiting.

“We grew up here and we’re from here so, we’ve been through ups and downs for sure,” said Fossell. “We’ll just keep plugging away.”

And continue trying to make do.

“Let us decide whether or not this is gonna be sustainable, ok?” Sweeney said. “Let us have jobs, good paying jobs.”

“Let us…survive.”

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