The U.S. Forest Service and Poly Met Mining, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of PolyMet Mining Corp. last Thursday exchanged titles to federal and private lands, completing an administrative land exchange that is central to development of Minnesota’s first copper-nickel-precious metals mine.
Approved by the Senate (per support from Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith) and President Donald Trump, the transaction bypassed four pending lawsuits by environmental groups that oppose the swap.
The transfer of surface rights to approximately 6,650 acres of federal lands to PolyMet gives the company control over both surface and mineral rights in and around the NorthMet ore body, which is near an area historically used for mining and associated infrastructure. Likewise, PolyMet’s transfer of title of four tracts of private land to the Forest Service totaling 6,690 acres further consolidates the Superior National Forest’s land holdings in northeast Minnesota.
With the exchange, PolyMet has total surface rights, including ownership and other use and occupancy rights, to approximately 19,000 contiguous acres (30 square miles) of land including the land at the mine and processing sites, the transportation corridor connecting those sites, and buffer.
Title transfer comes 17 months after the Superior National Forest issued a Record of Decision authorizing the land exchange, determining it was in the best public interest.
PolyMet is developing a copper-nickel-precious metals mine that poses significant risk to the environment and as such, has concerned those who enjoy northern Minnesota’s terrain including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). A separate, similar project by Twin Metals located just outside the BWCA is receiving more resistance, including lawsuits filed by nine organizations in June.
PolyMet proponents, meanwhile, focus on how their project is expected to require approximately two million hours of construction labor, create approximately 360 long-term jobs directly, and generate a level of activity that will have a significant multiplier effect in the local economy.