The federal government and environmentalists are asking a Minnesota District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Twin Metals Minnesota that challenges the U.S. Justice Department’s authority to deprive the firm of mineral rights near Ely. Copper, nickel and precious metals have been found on the site, where environmentalists contend the land is too sensitive to accommodate mining.
The Justice Department and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness contend the matter belongs in the Court of Federal Claims, not in Minnesota District Court, where it was filed by Twin Metals, the plaintiff.
“Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because they have identified no statute or regulation that entitles them to a perpetual renewable leasehold interest and have cited no law or regulation constraining the U.S. Forest Service’s discretion to withhold consent,” Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness said in a motion.
Twin Metals Minnesota said the leases in question were issued by the federal government in 1966 with a right of unlimited, successive 10-year renewals. The leases were renewed by federal agencies without controversy in 1989 and 2004. Twin Metals filed the pending lease renewal application in mid-2013. A dispute arose in December, however, when the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture announced mineral leases near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will not be renewed. Mining proponents had hoped President Donald Trump’s administration would reverse the federal government’s decision, which emerged during the last days of the Obama presidency. So far, that hasn’t occurred.
In not consenting to the lease renewals, the U.S, Forest Service cited the potential risk of environmental contamination of the surrounding watershed as a key concern.
Twin Metals and its predecessor companies have invested more than $400 million to investigate the deposit.
“The leases grant the lessee the ‘exclusive right to mine, remove, and dispose’ of all the copper, nickel, and associated minerals for a period of 20 years, with a ‘right in the Lessee to renew the same for successive periods’ of 10 years… The renewal right, like the leases themselves, represented a reward for the discovery made by the lessee and the risk undertaken to make that discovery,” Twin Metals says in its lawsuit complaint.
Pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and (6), Fed.R.Civ.P., Defendant-Intervenor Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness respeetfully moves this court to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint. This Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over this matter because the Court of Federal Claims maintains exclusive jurisdiction for contractual disputes with the U.S. Government; the Quiet Title Act does not provide jurisdiction when title is not in dispute; and the Administrative Procedure Act claims are foreclosed when they are founded on contract or when there are adequate alternative remedies.
Further, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because they have identified no statute or regulation that entitles them to a perpetual renewable leasehold interest and have cited no law or regulation constraining the U.S. Forest Service’s discretion to withhold consent. Accordingly, this Court should enter an Order dismissing Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint in its entirety, with prejudice.
Federal Defendants hereby move this Court to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Supplemental and Amended Complaint (ECF No. 72) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). This Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims because a contract dispute does not provide a cognizable cause of action under the Quiet Title Act or the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). The case must be brought in the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act, precluding jurisdiction in this Court.
In addition, this Court lacks jurisdiction over Count I because Plaintiffs have failed to identify an interest in real property that is cognizable under the Quiet Title Act. The Court must also dismiss Count IV because Plaintiffs have an adequate alternative remedy at law and fail to state a claim against the United States Forest Service for which relief can be granted.