Federal judge rejects challenges to PolyMet land swap

In this undated aerial file photo, the LTV Steel Mining Company which shut its doors Jan. 3, 2001, is shown near Hoyt Lakes, Minn. The PolyMet Mining Corp. wants to use the facility for its copper-nickel processing plant.
Mark Sauer | AP file

A federal judge has rejected challenges by several environmental groups to a land swap needed for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen dismissed the four challenges late Monday. She ruled that the groups lacked the necessary legal standing to block the land exchange between PolyMet and the federal government.

She said that's because PolyMet had not yet secured all the necessary permits to begin work, so the groups couldn't establish that they'd been harmed.

Two years ago the U.S. Forest Service agreed to trade about 6,600 acres of federal land for a similar amount of land PolyMet owned.

The environmental groups say the deal undervalued the federal land and violated other laws. PolyMet disputed those claims.

Editor’s note: (Oct. 1, 2019): An earlier version of this story was confusing in how it described the PolyMet-Forest Service agreement. To clarify, the Forest Service agreed to trade about 6,600 acres of federal land for an equivalent-sized acreage owned by PolyMet.

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