MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — State regulators have approved the final environmental review for Minnesota's first copper-nickel mine.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr certified Thursday that the environmental impact statement for the proposed mine in northeastern Minnesota meets all the legal requirements.

The decision marks a major milestone for PolyMet Mining Corp. It allows the company to start applying for permits for the proposed open pit mine near Babbitt and processing facility six miles away near Hoyt Lakes.

PolyMet has promoted the project as a boon to the economically depressed Iron Range, saying it will create hundreds of jobs.

But environmental groups consider PolyMet a threat to nearby pristine areas and water supplies. They're expected to keep up their fight throughout the permitting process and the dispute could land in the courts.