IRON RANGE — PolyMet Mining said Tuesday that its mineral expectations for the proposed NorthMet project on the East Range is higher than previously disclosed.

The revelation comes as the company wrapped up a nearly year-long drilling program as it continues to seek about $1 billion in financing. According to a press release, Polymet said the drilling program that commenced in late 2018 and finished this year revealed a 14 percent increase in proven and probable resources, upping the total to 290 million tons. That resulted in resources rising by 22 percent to 795 million tons.

“We are pleased with the improvements the drilling program delivered to our mineral resource, with an additional 177 million pounds of copper, 53 million pounds of nickel and 322,000 ounces of precious metals added to the Proven and Probable Reserve category,” said PolyMet President and CEO Jon Cherry, in the release. “The drilling program outcomes are indicative of our tremendous NorthMet asset and the progress we continue to make with the project.”

Cherry added PolyMet was in ongoing discussions with potential lenders to finance the construction phase of the project, which could begin next year.

In the meantime, Polymet continues to face a number of legal challenges for what would become Minnesota’s first-ever copper-nickel mine, located near Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals is weighing a challenge to the permit to mine, while the district court level is looking at permit disputes that arose from controversial communications between the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

PolyMet was fully permitted this year before two permits were stayed by the courts pending a final determination.

Previously, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said the state agencies issuing clearance to the project are in the right, but maintained that they would have to wait for the decisions from the courts.

“With a fully permitted project, we remain in ongoing discussions with potential lenders about financing while we also continue to identify opportunities to optimize and deliver the project in the most economic way possible,” Cherry added.

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