Poly Met Mining, Inc, on Tuesday said the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis has dismissed all lawsuits challenging the NorthMet land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and PolyMet.
The court ruled late Monday that the eight plaintiffs in four lawsuits filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service in early 2017 lacked standing to challenge the transaction. The court explained that because the plaintiffs did not use the land exchange property, they were not injured by PolyMet’s ownership. At the same time, it denied three motions seeking a preliminary injunction against PolyMet’s activities on the land exchange property.
In reaction, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy said the decision "prevents the people of northern Minnesota from challenging an unfair, sweetheart land deal that gives away 6,650 acres of the Superior National Forest at a bargain basement price of just $550/acre. In addition, taxpayers will have to pay PolyMet an additional $425,000 in cash due to the undervaluation of the land."
The lawsuits dismissed by the court sought to reverse the land exchange transaction and temporarily stop any work being performed on the property. Plaintiffs represented in one or more of the four lawsuits were: WaterLegacy, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the W.J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, Save Our Sky Blue Waters, Earthworks, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, and Save Lake Superior Association.
In the land exchange, which was consummated in June 2018, PolyMet obtained title to approximately 6,650 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and in return the Forest Service received approximately 6,900 acres of privately held land. State and federal agencies subsequently issued all of the necessary permits to PolyMet to build and operate the NorthMet copper-nickel-precious metals mine on the propert located near Hoyt Lakes.
“This decision is consistent with our longstanding position that the NorthMet Project stands on firm legal ground and meets all of the conditions required of it by a rigorous and lengthy environmental review and permitting process,” said Jon Cherry, president and CEO. “We are grateful for the court’s thoughtful and careful consideration of this matter nd pleased that a longer process in the district court now will be avoided.”
PolyMet has now prevailed in all six of the legal challenges to the NorthMet Project that have reached a final decision. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, however, indicated it might challenge the latest ruling further.
"Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy will closely examine the court’s ruling and consult with our clients to determine the next steps in this challenge," the group said in a prepared statement. MCEA represents itself, The W.J. McCabe (Duluth) Chapter of the Izaak Walton League and the Center for Biological Diversity.