FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Paula Maccabee 651-646-8890, firstname.lastname@example.org
WaterLegacy Advocacy Director & Counsel
Environmental Group WaterLegacy Shows that Exchange Undervalues Superior National Forest Land
DULUTH, Minn. Jan. 30, 2017: The Minnesota non-profit environmental group WaterLegacy filed suit today in U.S. District Court against the USDA Forest Service to overturn its approval of an exchange of 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest land to PolyMet Mining Company, Inc. for the PolyMet NorthMet open-pit copper-nickel mine. The lawsuit states that Forest Service approval of the PolyMet land exchange on January 9, 2017 violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) because it failed to consider the highest and most profitable use of the lands for mining related uses, significantly undervalued the federal lands, and would result in a windfall for the PolyMet foreign corporation at the expense of Minnesota taxpayers and public lands.
“The Forest Service turned a blind eye to the purpose of the land exchange (PolyMet’s proposed sulfide mine), the exploitable minerals on the lands, and Minnesota’s private market where mining companies pay a premium to buy lands for existing and potential mining uses,” said WaterLegacy attorney Paula Maccabee. “WaterLegacy’s board and thousands of other citizens across Northeastern Minnesota are tired of seeing Minnesota’s Superior National Forest lands and Lake Superior watersheds devalued in order to serve the interests of PolyMet and its foreign investors.”
The Forest Service valued the site proposed for the PolyMet mine at just $550 per acre, based only on its use for “timber investment.” However, recent private sales of Minnesota land to mining companies have resulted in prices many times higher. For example, from 2012 to 2016, Kennecott Exploration Company has paid an average of $3,885 per acre for land in Minnesota’s Aitkin County with copper-nickel mining potential.
Jason L. Messner, MAI, a valuation expert who reviewed the appraisal used by the Forest Service, concluded that valuation of federal lands for the proposed PolyMet mine site “based solely on its value for forestry and timber production, is not reasonable and results in an opinion of value that is not credible.”
PolyMet has to date received no permits for its proposed open-pit copper-nickel mine, which WaterLegacy and many other health and environmental groups oppose due to the project’s threats to wetlands, habitats, water pollution and mercury contamination of fish. According to the Forest Service Biological Assessment, the proposed exchange of 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest lands for the PolyMet mine project would be the largest land exchange ever conducted by the Forest Service.
This photograph shows a portion of the Superior National Forest lands proposed for the
PolyMet land swap taken by a consultant for PolyMet as part of the September 15, 2012
NorthMet Project Cultural Landscape Study Final Report.