The legislation is important because it would require the U.S. Forest Service and PolyMet Mining to move forward with the NorthMet land exchange and have it completed within 90 days. Without this type of action, it is likely the U.S. government — therefore, taxpayers — would face significant expense in a drawn-out, litigious process brought by mining opponents. In addition, PolyMet could face further unnecessary delays in its project. This would be a shame since all lands to be exchanged were thoroughly examined in an independent appraisal process. Every step of the way, the agencies and PolyMet followed the federally prescribed process.
Importantly, PolyMet will still be required to acquire necessary permits before construction can begin on the NorthMet Project. This legislation is not a signature of approval, but rather it is designed to bring certainty that the land exchange will progress expeditiously by ratifying what the U.S. Forest Service already determined in the Record of Decision earlier this year.
Our organizations have been watching the NorthMet Project and land exchange progress through the established, comprehensive environmental review process as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, and the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act. We’ve participated in the public-input process and anxiously awaited the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. That EIS was an enormous achievement after many years of effort by multiple parties to ensure the project is done right.
Earlier this year, we celebrated the Final Record of Decision, approving the land exchange as an important milestone for copper-nickel mining in Minnesota. It was a decision that validated the project’s environmental review and acknowledged that the land exchange is in the best interest of the public.
Unfortunately, the land exchange has not yet been finalized due to actions taken by parties which do not support the outcomes of this thorough process.