MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One of the major issues for a proposed copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota is how to protect taxpayers from having to clean up a potential environmental mess.

PolyMet Mining Corp. hopes to build the state's first such operation with a pit mine near Babbitt and a processing plant near Hoyt Lakes.

But critics of the project worry it could lead to water pollution. And they say many mining companies have gone bankrupt and left taxpayers on the hook for tens of billions of dollars.

Polymet says it can cover any cleanup costs. A Minnesota House committee will begin looking Tuesday at whether a financial assurance package can be structured to protect taxpayers now and potentially centuries into the future.