Why did PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service agree to the land exchange?

PolyMet Mining and the U.S. Forest Service proposed a land exchange to consolidate their respective property ownerships and to meet desired conditions in the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. Earlier this year, the Forest Service authorized the land exchange in a Final Record of Decision, which concludes that the exchange “best serves the public’s interest.”

What land is being exchanged?

There are two key components to the land exchange:

  • The U.S. Forest Service will receive 6,690 acres of private land from PolyMet. These four parcels of land, located within the Superior National Forest, will be managed for recreation, research and conservation.
  • PolyMet will receive approximately 6,650 acres of federal land located in an established mining district. This land is around and over mineral rights already controlled by PolyMet, and is located where we will develop the mine.

The federal land that will be conveyed to PolyMet is a contiguous tract of forested land located at the northern boundary of the Superior National Forest, approximately six miles south of Babbitt in St. Louis County.

The federal land has no public overland access, is mostly isolated from other National Forest System land, and is mostly surrounded by private land.

Outline of Polymet land exchange

The private lands that will be conveyed to the Superior National Forest have wetland and other environmental values generally equal to or greater than those of the federal land including lakes with wild rice. All of them would have public access from existing or nearby county or Forest Service roads. Except for some timber harvest, these private lands are generally undisturbed, with native forest cover, and within the Superior National Forest boundaries. These tracts have conservation values in addition to providing excellent recreational access and timber management opportunities.

description of Polymet land exchange

The value of the lands in the exchange were determined in compliance with Forest Service Appraisal procedures and long-established, nationally recognized appraisal standards, including the Uniform Appraisal and Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions, also known as the “Yellow Book.”

How does the land exchange benefit the public?

The land exchange will provide the following public benefits, which are documented in the Forest Service’s Final Record of Decision:

  • 505-acre net increase of wetlands to the federal estate
  • 94-acre net gain of lakes with frontage available for public and tribal use
  • 40-acre net gain in National Forest System lands
  • Simplified land management by reducing ownership boundaries that must be managed by the Forest Service (33 fewer miles)
  • Improved management effectiveness by exchanging federal lands that have no public overland access for lands that do have public access.

How is the land exchange related to the proposed NorthMet mine?

The land exchange does not authorize the mine to proceed. It is a real estate transaction that gives PolyMet surface ownership at the proposed location of the mine, and gives the Forest Service ownership of accessible lands with good recreation values.

PolyMet still must acquire a number of permits and approvals from federal and state regulatory agencies before it can begin mining.

Get more details about the land exchange in this booklet.


We’ll keep you posted on the land exchange and other developments as our efforts to bring copper-nickel mining jobs and opportunities to Minnesota progress.


Source: NorthMet Project Land Exchange, Final Record of Decision,

Superior National Forest, January 9, 2017 [http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/72870_FSPLT3_3913258.pdf].

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