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PolyMet Land Exchange with Forest Service to Close June 28th

Updated: June 14, 2018 08:10 PM

In mining news, PolyMet said that they have received notice from the U.S. Forest Service that the land exchange will close June 28th. The company also said that the transfer is central to the development of Minnesota's first copper-nickel precious metals mine.

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"This administrative exchange gives us exclusive control of the land over our ore body and provides a secure foundation on which we can complete project financing and permitting, build the project, create hundreds of sustainable jobs, and bring these essential metals to market," said Jon Cherry, president and CEO.

The government issued a record of decision authorizing the land exchange in January of 2017.

Environmental groups have been pushing to stop the exchange with lawsuits, saying the deal undervalues the federal land.

Supporters of the project have advocated for bills in Congress, which have been introduced to finalize the exchange. Most recently, Senator Tina Smith introduced an amendment to a major defense bill about the land exchange. Senator Amy Klobuchar is a co-sponsor. Environmental groups were critical of that amendment, saying it's a way to circumvent the courts and a sweetheart deal.

Congressman Rick Nolan had gotten a similar version passed in the House last fall, but it didn't get far in the Senate. The process has started over again with Smith's amendment.

Thursday, there was progress on that amendment, with a full vote expected on Monday. 

PolyMet leaders said those bills are still important, because of the lawsuits. The legal actions have been stayed by a judge, pending the legislation. Even after PolyMet and the government sign the property transfer, the window for lawsuits is still open. The legislation would stop the lawsuits.

The transfer of approximately 6,650 acres of federal lands to PolyMet consolidates surface land and mineral ownership around the NorthMet ore body. PolyMet's transfer of title of four tracts of private land to the Forest Service totaling 6,690 acres helps consolidate Forest Service land in northeast Minnesota.

Jobs for Minnesotans put out a statement, saying, "Today's news that the administrative land exchange for PolyMet will be complete later this month is a positive step toward bringing hundreds of jobs to northeastern Minnesotans from the NorthMet project. We're pleased to learn there is now a definitive timeline for this long-awaited land exchange to be finalized.
 
"The land exchange will not greenlight the PolyMet mining project, but rather will ratify what the Forest Service already determined during its exhaustive environmental review and public input process - that the land exchange is in the public's best interest."

And Aurora Mayor Dave Lislegard said in statement, "We are extremely pleased with the progress being made on the land exchange. While this does not complete the process, it's definitely a giant step in the right direction."

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