What happened

Copper and nickel miner PolyMet Mining (NYSEMKT:PLM) has just been awarded a new permit to mine -- what else? -- copper and nickel by the State of Minnesota. Investors in the miner cheered the news, and bid up PolyMet's stock price by 26.4% as of 3:25 p.m. EDT on Thursday.

So what

In a press release on the development, PolyMet noted that this is "the first nonferrous mining permit to be issued in the State of Minnesota," seemingly giving the company a limited monopoly of sorts in the state.

Receipt of the permit is "crucial ... for construction and operation of the NorthMet Project in northeastern Minnesota." It authorizes the company to build and operate open-pit mining operations that are expected to yield approximately 1.2 billion pounds of copper, 170 million pounds of nickel, 6.2 million pounds of cobalt, and 1.6 million troy ounces of precious metals over a 20-year mine life.

Tunnel in a copper mine

A light may have just appeared in PolyMet's tunnel. Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Perhaps even more important to investors, with this permit in hand, PolyMet now moves one step closer to actually generating revenues from a mining business. Over the past 12 months, PolyMet has racked up $11 million in losses, but collected not a single copper penny in revenue to offset those losses.

PolyMet still isn't expected to earn a profit this year, mind you -- or next year, either, for that matter. For the time being, it remains a speculative investment. But today it's an investment with a bit more potential to reward investors.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.