Could Land Swap Hamstring PolyMet?

Could restrictions on the Superior National Forest land where PolyMet Mining wants to establish Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine stymie the company’s plans to open its project in a timely fashion?

That’s the question Marshall Helmberger asks in THIS story in the Timberjay.

With the comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the mining project now closed, attention is focused on the land required for the operation. While PolyMet owns the mineral rights to the 6,700 acre site near Babbitt, MN, the U.S. Forest Service owns surface rights.

The Timberjay notes that a second Environmental Impact Statement would be required in order for the USFS to swap the land which is currently part of the Superior National Forest for another parcel. The processes required for such an exchange, which the story notes have barely begun, could keep the mining operation from beginning in late 2010, as PolyMet officials hope.

Additionally, restrictions on the property deed for the land may limit the activities that can take place on the land surface. The USFS obtained ownership of the land in 1935 in a purchase, through the Weeks Act, from the Duluth Iron Range Railroad Company.

According to the Timberjay, PolyMet officials are still hopeful they will be able to build their project as intended on the site in a timely fashion.

Also … The Minneapolis StarTribune published THIS editorial on Saturday against legislation at the Minnesota State Capitol which would require greater financial assurances from PolyMet and other mining companies to cover potential environmental clean-up costs should the companies go bankrupt.

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