Let’s lay out the facts.
A key component of developing Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine is the land exchange between PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service. Some questions have come up regarding the land exchange and specifically the value of the Forest Service land. Here are the facts about the fairness of this exchange:
Surface versus mineral rights
The Forest Service owns the surface rights of the land; PolyMet already controls the mineral rights to this land. This means the value of the exchange is purely based on the surface rights. Project opponents would have the company pay twice for mineral rights we already own.
The values for the Forest Service lands as well as the private lands PolyMet is offering for the exchange were set through the federal appraisal process – not by PolyMet.
The land was appraised by an independent appraiser
In a thorough review documented in a 38-page written report, the government’s independent appraiser set the value of the Forest Service parcel at $550/acre. The appraisal followed federal appraisal rules to make exchanges fair for all parties involved – a process that has been regularly used across the country for land exchanges for decades.
As we’ve already highlighted, the federal lands are isolated and largely inaccessible to the public. The lands that will be exchanged will increase public access and recreation opportunities within the Superior National Forest.
Federal law requires equal value land exchanges
The Forest Service and PolyMet fully complied with this law. The independent appraiser’s report established that the federal and private lands were valued fairly and equitably. The Forest Service’s review appraiser then examined that report and affirmed that it accurately captures the property values. So this land exchange complies with the law’s equal value requirement.
Legal challenges to the land exchange
It’s true that project opponents have filed federal court challenges related to the exchange. Bipartisan legislation recently introduced by Rep. Rick Nolan prevents project opponents from delaying the land exchange with endless legal claims. It does not prevent challenges to future decisions to approve mining as part of the permitting process.