Stauber Aims First Bill At PolyMet Land Exchange

By Eric Killelea Mesabi Daily News

Congressman Pete Stauber R-Minn., introduced new legislation on Monday aimed at stopping legal challenges to a federal land exchange for PolyMet Mining Corp.’s development of the first copper-nickel mine in Minnesota.

In his first piece of legislation, H.R. 527, the Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act of 2019, Stauber made good on his promise to pursue former DFL congressman Rick Nolan’s attempt to swap 6,500 acres of U.S. Forest Service land around the NorthMet ore body to PolyMet and 6,690 acres of private land to the USFS.

“It’s a bipartisan bill and we’re going to talk with individuals in Congress on why it’s important and why mining and jobs matter in northeastern Minnesota,” Stauber said during a phone interview on Monday evening. “This legislation is going to help guarantee the U.S. has precious metals for the growing demands in the areas of defense, manufacturing, healthcare and medical research.”

Stauber added: “It’s a win-win. In addition to keeping the nation competitive and creating good-paying jobs, it gives the public more land and increases access to trails and resources…”

Nolan and co-sponsors including congressman-turned-Gov. Tim Walz initially put forward their own version of the Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act, which passed on a 309-99 vote in the U.S. House in November 2017. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith then included the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed on a 85-10 vote in the U.S. Senate in June 2018.

But a month later, members of a Senate-House conference committee dropped the amendment from the final version of the NDAA, a set of federal laws on the annual budget of the U.S. Department of Defense. The move reopened the door for four federal lawsuits arguing that the USFS undervalued the land and failed to see the potential harm that mining could have on threatened species and quality of downstream water.

Still, the decision to drop the amendment didn’t affect PolyMet receiving several permits last November from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and also last December from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

After obtaining the state permits, PolyMet needs only one wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the mine south of Babbitt and the processing plant near Hoyt Lakes.

PolyMet has long maintained that it can operate the mine without damaging the environment, while supporters say that the project would create 300 jobs to help stimulate the regional economy.

This article provided by NewsEdge.