U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-MN, has introduced bipartisan legislation to direct the secretary of agriculture to move forward with the land exchange between PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
The USFS authorized an administrative land exchange for the PolyMet Mining NorthMet project in its Final Record of Decision on January 9. The purpose of House Resolution No. 3115, The Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act of 2017, is to accelerate transfer and provide certainty of process. The bill was introduced June 29 and referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.
“We are committed to moving the project forward in a thoughtful and expeditious manner and are pleased Congressman Nolan is taking this step to bring closure to the land exchange process,” said Jon Cherry, president and CEO, PolyMet Mining Corp. “In this legislation, Congress would ratify the USFS determination that the exchange is in the best public interest and moves for the exchange to be completed within 90 days of the bill’s enactment.”
The environmental review for the NorthMet project and land exchange was the largest and longest in Minnesota history, concluding after 10 years. The Final Environmental Impact Statement demonstrates that the NorthMet project is capable of meeting all applicable state and federal environmental standards.
PolyMet is seeking to permit, build and operate the NorthMet copper-nickel-precious metals project located in the established Mesabi Iron Range mining district in northeastern Minnesota. The land exchange was proposed jointly by the USFS and PolyMet in 2010 to consolidate their respective land ownerships.
The terms of the land exchange proposed in The Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act of 2017 are the same as those found in the administrative land exchange: PolyMet receives approximately 6,650 acres of surface land above and around its NorthMet ore body near an area heavily used for mining and mine infrastructure; in exchange, the Superior National Forest receives four parcels of land totaling 6,690 acres currently owned or controlled by PolyMet that will become part of the Superior National Forest. The difference is that the $425,000 equalization payment owed PolyMet by the USFS as a result of the administrative exchange would be waived by the company in the legislative exchange.
The company will continue its involvement in the administrative steps to complete the land exchange transaction while the bill is under consideration.
Neither the administrative land exchange, nor a legislative exchange would permit or approve construction of the NorthMet mine. Mine development and operations remain subject to regulation and permits issued by the state of Minnesota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others. Those state and federal agencies are currently reviewing and processing permit applications for the project, including the comprehensive permit to mine application.
Original cosponsors of the bill include House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) and fellow Minnesotans Tom Emmer (R) and Jason Lewis (R). The bill also has the support of a number of key House Natural Resources Subcommittee leaders, including Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Federal Lands Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA), Federal Lands Vice Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and senior House Natural Resources Members Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO).
A more detailed description of the exchange lands and benefits can be found at: http://polymetmining.com/northmet-project/land-exchange/