PolyMet - NorthMet Update
The DNR, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the US Forest Service (USFS) are working as co-lead agencies in the preparation of a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The DNR and the USACE announced their intent to prepare a Supplemental Draft EIS in a June 24, 2010 news release. More info HERE
The USFS has now joined as a co-lead agency and as the decision maker on a proposed USFS-PolyMet land exchange. The USFS and USACE published a Notice of Intent to prepare an SDEIS including the land exchange in the Federal Register on October 13, 2010. The USFS and USACE will take public comment on the SDEIS scope through November 29, 2010. Details of the scoping process and how to comment can be found at the USFS Web site.
This comment period has closed
PolyMet's proposed NorthMet site on USFS public lands
Proposed NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange
The Superior National Forest is currently developing scoping materials for the land exchange portion of the PolyMet Mine Project. There is a 45 day comment period, which was noticed in the Federal Register: October 13, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 197)
The Land Exchange propose to exchange 6,650 acres of federal land from public to private ownership for a Copper-Nickel Sulfide Strip Mine, removing long standing Weeks Act environmental protections which prohibit the destruction of the USFS public lands.
If the Land Exchange is approved, it would facilitate the destruction of over 1000 acres of high quality wetlands and thousands of acres of the Superior National Forest by a Canadian multinational mining company for a Copper-Nickel Sulfide Strip Mine.
This would be the largest permitted destruction of wetlands since the Saint Paul District of the Corps began permitting wetland fill. See below
NOI - Below
"The purpose and need for the land exchange is to eliminate conflicts between the United States and the private mineral estate. (The SNF has concluded that the proponent does not have the right to remove the surface of public lands by operating an open pit mine unless the lands in question were exchanged into private ownership."
" According to John Ahlness, with Army Corps of Engineers, the operation will directly impact about 850 acres of wetlands, mostly coniferous peatlands, and indirectly impact another 650 wetland acres.
“It would be the largest single wetlands impact that the St. Paul office (of the Army Corps) has permitted,” said Ahlness."
Popping the PolyMet Propaganda Pill By Elanne Palcich Found Here
Department of Interior- USFWS comments on PolyMet's DEIS Found Here
"No Action Alternative – The DEIS states that no social or economic benefits would result from the no action alternative and that local employment and economic revenue would not increase. No data or background information is provided to make this conclusion. The USFS is required to manage its lands, which does provide social and economic benefits to the local community. Timber production, hunting, fishing, camping, and other activities are all income producing benefits resulting from a healthy, undisturbed ecosystem. The proposed mine site is owned by the USFS and lies within 21 miles of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Therefore, there are social and economic benefits from the no action alternative."
Excerpted from the EPA letter dated February 18, 2010 to USACE Re: PolyMet NorthMet Project Found Here
"EPA finds this project may have substantial and unacceptable adverse impacts on aquatic resources of national importance (ARNI). EPA believes the coniferous and open bogs, comprising a large percentage of the approximately 33,880 total wetland acres, within the Partridge River Watershed to be an ARNI due to the values they provide in terms of unique habitat, biodiversity, downstream water quality, and flood control specifically, to the Lake Superior Watershed and the Great Lakes Basin."
page 17 (21 of the PDF)
"In our June 9, 2005 letter the to the District Engineer, EPA reserved its right to elevate our objections to the individual wetlands fill permit for this project, under CW A Section 404( q) due to the potential that this project may result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national importance (ARNI). The proposed Mine Site contains approximately 1,300 wetland acres, which are within the Partridge River Watershed, which flows through Colby Lake to the Embarrass River and then to the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. Of these,
73 % of the more than 1,100 wetlands acres proposed to be impacted consist of open bog and coniferous bog communities. Other wetland types at the Mine Site are coniferous swamp, alder thicket, hardwood swamp, wet meadow, and some shallow marsh. The wetland functional assessment included in the DEIS indicates that more than 90% of the wetlands to be impacted have Minnesota Rapid Assessment Method (MnRAM) scores corresponding to high vegetative diversity and high overall wetland quality. The DEIS also states that the Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) has identified the Mine Site as having High Biodiversity Significance. For the above reasons, EPA believes the coniferous and open bogs, comprising a large percentage of the approximately 33,880 total wetland acres within the Partridge River Watershed to be an ARNI due to the values they provide in terms of unique habitat, biodiversity, downstream water quality, and Hood control."
Scoping Meetings for PolyMet Land Exchange scheduled- information and comments will be incorporated into PolyMet's supplemental EIS expected Summer 2011
Dates and locations for the public open houses follow:
Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 5:00 to 8:00 pm Mesabi East High School Commons Area, 601 North First Street West, Aurora, MN
Wednesday, October 27, 2010, 5:00 to 8:00 pm, New Brighton Family Services Center Conference Room A, 400 10th St. NW, New Brighton, MN
Proposed NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange
The US Forest Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invite your comments on the NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange proposal. Please provide comments in the space below. If you require more space, please attach additional sheets as needed. To be most useful, comments should discuss specific issues. All comments will be considered in the development of the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Responsible Official and Nature of Decision To Be Made
The Responsible Official for the proposed land exchange is the Forest Supervisor for the Superior
National Forest. The Responsible Official will decide in a Record of Decision whether to proceed with
the proposed land exchange.
Written comments may also be submitted electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or by fax to (218) 626-4396
Or directly to
JAMES W. SANDERS, FOREST SUPERVISOR
SUPERIOR NATIONAL FOREST
8901 GRAND AVENUE PLACE
DULUTH MN 55808
USFS PolyMet NorthMet Land Exchange PRESS RELEASE HERE
USFS PolyMet Land Exchange
A land exchange of federal lands in: T59N, R12W, T59N, R13W, and T60N, R13W. Non federal lands being proposed are located throughout the Superior National Forest in St. Louis, Lake, and Cook Counties.
Thomas Hale, 559-920-7748
Vicinity Map (PDF 2536kb)
Nonfederal Tract #1 Map (PDF 565kb)
Nonfederal Tract #2 Map (PDF 1606kb)
Nonfederal Tract #3 Map (PDF 1617kb)
Nonfederal Tract #4 Map (PDF 340kb)
Nonfederal Tract #5 Map (PDF 600kb)
Notice of Intent (PDF 52kb)
NorthMet Land Exchange Comment form (PDF 85kb)
NorthMet Land Exchange Scoping Information (PDF 1480kb)
"This scoping package will be sent to interested parties for a 45-day comment period, anticipated to occur in October and November of 2010. The USACE and the SNF will use these scoping comments to identify significant issues that will guide the analysis of impacts associated with the land exchange. The scoping package will also be available for review, along with supplemental large scale maps, on the internet at the following Web site:
The Supplemental DEIS is expected in the summer of 2011, with the final environmental impact statement anticipated six-to-nine months later."
USFS Scoping info
This scoping information describes a proposed land exchange between the United States of America,
acting through the USDA Forest Service - Superior National Forest and PolyMet Mining, Inc.
(PolyMet). PolyMet has proposed the NorthMet Mine and Ore Processing Facilities Project (“NorthMet
Project”) which would result in construction and operation of an open pit copper/nickel/cobalt/precious
metals mine, an ore processing plant, and tailings basin 6 miles south of Babbitt in St. Louis County,
Minnesota. As proposed, the NorthMet project would involve approximately 2,840 acres currently in
federal ownership which are managed by the US Forest Service as part of the Superior National Forest.
The mining and processing portion of the NorthMet Project is described in detail in the Draft EIS
developed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR) and US Army Corps of
Engineers (USACE) and released to the public in November 2009.
The proposed land exchange is considered a “connected action” to the NorthMet project; meaning that it
is part of the overall project proposal and therefore will be included in the analysis of environmental
impacts. The purpose and need for the land exchange is to eliminate conflicts between federal land
management responsibilities of the Forest Service and the private mineral estate, in which PolyMet
holds an interest. In addition to national forest lands encompassed in the proposed NorthMet mine site,
the Forest Service proposes to include an additional 3,810 acres of federal property in the land exchange
as a means to avoid intermingled and inefficient ownership patterns and eliminate conflicts if minerals
development were to expand in the future. Many of these federal lands are adjacent to lands extensively
impacted by past and ongoing mining activities.
[Federal Register: October 13, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 197)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Department of the Army; Corps of Engineers
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Superior National Forest, Minnesota
Intent to prepare a supplemental draft environmental impact
statement for the construction and operation of an open pit copper/
nickel/cobalt/precious metals mine, an ore processing plant, and
tailings basin proposed by PolyMet
Mining, Inc., near Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes in St. Louis County,
Minnesota. The supplement will add an analysis of a land exchange
between the proponant and the US Forest Service, Superior National
AGENCIES: Department of the Army, US Army Corps of Engineers,
Department of Defense; Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of intent (NOI) to prepare a supplemental draft
environmental impact statement (SDEIS). (The original NOI to prepare a
draft EIS for the proposed Polymet Mining, Inc. Northmet project was
published by the US Army Corps of Engineers in Volume 70, Number 126 of
the Federal Register, pages 38,122-38,123, July 1, 2005.)
SUMMARY: The SDEIS will supplement and supersede the Draft EIS of
October 27, 2009 (DEIS), which was produced jointly by the US Army
Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources (MNDNR), released for public comment on November 6, 2009. The
SDEIS will respond to concerns about wetlands and water quality issues
associated with the NorthMet mining and ore processing proposal,
located in Northeast Minnesota, as identified by the US Environmental
Protection Agency and other commentors. The SDEIS will also incorporate
potential effects from a proposed land exchange between the USDA
Superior National Forest (SNF) and PolyMet Mining, Inc. (PolyMet). The
SNF will join the USACE and MNDNR as a third lead agency responsible
for EIS preparation because the land where the mine is proposed is
owned by the SNF.
Cooperating Agencies for preparation of the SDEIS include Minnesota
Bands of Chippewa/Ojibwe (Bois Forte and Fond du Lac). Others who have
requested to become cooperating agencies include the United States
Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Grand Portage Band of
Chippewa/Ojibwe. Federal laws and policies, which the joint lead
agencies are required to consider, will be outlined in the EIS for both
mine permiting and land exchange processes.
DATES: The SNF is currently developing scoping materials for the land
exchange portion of this project. This scoping package will be sent to
interested parties for a 45-day comment period, anticipated to occur in
October and November of 2010. The USACE and the SNF will use these
scoping comments to identify significant issues that will guide the
analysis of impacts associated with the land exchange. The scoping
package will also be available for review, along with supplemental
large scale maps, on the internet at the following Web site:
The Supplemental DEIS is expected in the summer of 2011, with the
final environmental impact statement anticipated six-to-nine months
ADDRESSES: Mining and Ore Processing Proposal: No additional scoping
Land Exchange: Send written comments regarding the land exchange to
James W. Sanders, Forest Supervisor, 8901 Grand Avenue Place, Duluth,
MN 55808. Written comments may also be submitted electronically to:
email@example.com, or by fax to (218) 626-4398.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mining and Ore Processing Proposal:
Contact Mr. Jon K. Ahlness for issues associated with the mining
proposal, Section 404 Wetlands issues, and Clean Water Act questions;
by letter at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 180 Fifth Street East, Suite
700, St. Paul, MN 55101-1678, by telephone at 651-290-5381, or by e-
mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Land Exchange: Contact Mark Hummel, SNF Deputy Forest Supervisor,
for additional information or questions about the proposed land
exchange, by letter at 8901 Grand Avenue Place, Duluth, MN 55808, by e-
mail at email@example.com, or by phone at 218-626-4303.
Mining and Processing Proposal
Purpose and Need for Action
The purpose and need of the NorthMet mining and ore processing
project is to produce base and precious metals, precipitates, and
flotation concentrates from ore mined at the NorthMet deposit by
uninterrupted operation of the former LTVSMC processing plant site. The
processed resources would help meet domestic and global demand by sale
of these products to domestic and world markets.
PolyMet has applied to the St. Paul District of the USACE for a
permit to discharge fill material into waters of the United States,
including jurisdictional wetlands, to facilitate the construction and
operation of an open pit copper/nickel/cobalt/precious metals mine in
the low grade poly-metallic disseminated magmatic sulfide NorthMet
deposit in northeastern Minnesota, approximately 6 miles south of the
town of Babbitt.
Responsible Official and Nature of Decision To Be Made
The responsible official for the USACE, the District Engineer for
the St. Paul District, will decide in a Record of Decision, whether to
issue a Clean Water Act, Section 404 permit for the discharge of fill
materials into the waters of the United States, including
No Additional Scoping for Mining and Processing Proposal
USACE and SNF are not requesting scoping comments on the NorthMet
mining and ore processing project at this time. Comments have already
been received in response to the original scoping notice of October 25,
2005, and in response to the Draft EIS of October 27, 2009. The
proposed mining and ore processing action still falls within the scope
of analysis identifed in the October 25, 2005, Final Scoping Decision
Document, produced jointly with the MNDNR. Scoping will be conducted
for the land exchange.
Purpose and Need for Action
The purpose and need for the land exchange is to eliminate
conflicts between the United States and the private mineral estate.
(The SNF has concluded that the proponent does not have the right to
remove the surface of public lands by operating an open pit mine unless
the lands in question were exchanged into private ownership. PolyMet
maintains that specific language in the mineral reservation allows open
Another purpose and need for the land exchange is to consolidate
land ownership so as to improve management effectiveness, improve
public access to federal lands and reduce boundary lines.
The proposal meets three Forest Service Strategic Plan Goals: (1)
Provide and sustain benefits to the American people (desired outcome is
forests with sufficient long-term multiple socioeconomic benefits to
meet the needs of society); (2) conserve open space; and (3) sustain
and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities.
Of the approximately 6,650 acres of land proposed for exchange to
private ownership, the NorthMet mine site would encompass approximately
2,840 acres. The remaining federal property proposed for inclusion in
the land exchange, approximately 3,810 acres, would improve
intermingled and inefficient ownership patterns and eliminate conflicts
development were to expand in the future. Many of these federal lands
are adjacent to lands extensively impacted by past and ongoing mining
The nonfederal lands offered for consideration by PolyMet are
located throughout the SNF and compliment existing federal ownership by
eliminating or reducing private inholdings. The non-federal tracts
consist of forest and wetland habitat as well as some lake frontage,
potentially enhancing public recreation opportunities.
The proposed action is a land exchange between the United States of
America, acting through the Forest Service, U.S. Department of
Agriculture SNF and PolyMet. The land exchange would transfer
approximately 6,650 acres of federal land from public to private
ownership, and approximately 6,722 acres of land from private to public
ownership. An in-depth analysis of this proposed exchange will be
disclosed in the supplemental draft and final environmental impact
statements for the NorthMet project. The NorthMet project is described
in the October 27, 2009 Draft EIS developed by MNDNR and USACE.
This exchange is proposed under the authority of the Weeks Act of
March 1, 1911 as amended; General Exchange Act of March 20, 1922;
Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act of 1988; and the Federal Land,
Policy and Management Act of October 21, 1976.
The federal land consists of a single contiguous tract of mostly
forested land, approximately 6,650 acres in size, located in the west/
central part of the SNF on the Laurentian Ranger District in the
historic Iron Range of Northeastern Minnesota. The tract lies
immediately south of the SNF proclamation boundary and is bounded on
the south by the former LTV Steel Mining Company (LTVSMC) railroad
grade and the Dunka Road. The Dunka Road is a private road with
sections owned and leased by Cliffs Erie, PolyMet and Minnesota Power.
Access is primarily via the Dunka Road and the LTVSMC railroad grade.
Nonfederal properties to the north and west of the federal land
have been extensively impacted over the years by open-pit mining, mine
waste rock stockpiles, tailings basins, mine processing facilities,
railroad grades, and general mining activities. The federal land
encompasses many acres of the 100-mile Swamp, a large black spruce,
tamarack and cedar wetland. Yelp Creek and the Partridge River flow
through the tract. Mud Lake is also located on the federal land.
The nonfederal lands include five different tracts of land that
total approximately 6,722 acres and include predominately forest and
The largest nonfederal tract, identified as Tract 1, consists of
approximately 4,650 acres (Hay Lake tract), located on the southeastern
portion of the Laurentian Ranger District, west of and adjoining County
Road 715 and north of the town of Biwabik in St. Louis County. The Hay
Lake tract includes Hay Lake, identified as a Wild Rice Water by the
MnDNR, and Little Rice Lake, which is used by trumpeter swans, a State
Threatened species. Approximately eight miles of the upper Pike River
flow through Tract 1.
Tract 2 (``Lake County lands'') consists of approximately 320 acres
of land formerly owned by Lake County. The tract includes various 40-
acre parcels on the Laurentian Ranger District southeast of Seven
Beaver Lake that are mostly surrounded by National Forest lands and
offer significant wetland habitat.
Tract 3 (``Wolf Lands'') consists of approximately 1,560 acres of
land on the Laurentian and Tofte Ranger Districts, west and southwest
of Isabella, MN. The tract includes four separate parcels that block in
or compliment National Forest ownership and, like Tract 2, offer
significant wetland habitat.
Tract 4 (``Hunting Club'' lands) consists of approximately 160
acres on the LaCroix Ranger District, 5 miles southwest of Crane Lake.
Two small unnamed lakes are partially included in the tract, as well as
a large percentage of wetland habitats. Tract 4 is surrounded by
National Forest, St. Louis County lands, and private ownership.
Tract 5 (``McFarland Lake'') consists of approximately 32 acres on
the Gunflint Ranger District in northeastern Cook County. The tract
blocks in National Forest ownership and includes lake-front property on
McFarland Lake, an entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Wilderness. Access to the property is available by water from a landing
off County Road 16 (Arrowhead Trail) approximately ten miles north of
Hovland, MN. All tracts were assembled by PolyMet for the purpose of
this proposed exchange.
Responsible Official and Nature of Decision to be Made
The Responsible Official for the proposed land exchange is the
Forest Supervisor for the SNF. The Responsible Official will decide in
a Record of Decision whether the proposed land exchange would result in
an overall benefit to the public good.
Public scoping for the proposed SNF and PolyMet land exchange will
include notices in the newspaper of record, mailing of the scoping
package (detailed information of the purpose and need for the project,
the proposed action, description of the project area, maps, and
proposed federal and non-federal lands involved in the proposed
exchange) to interested and affected publics and posting of the project
on the agency's project planning web pages and notice in the Forest
Service quarterly Schedule of Proposed Actions.
This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides
the development and incorporation of the proposed land exchange into
the Northmet Project environmental impact statement. Comments received,
including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be
considered part of the public record on this proposal and will be
available for public inspection.
(Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook
1909.15, Section 21).
Dated: September 29, 2010.
Tamara E. Cameron,
Chief, Regulatory Branch, St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers.
Dated: October 4, 2010.
James W. Sanders,
Forest Supervisor, USDA Superior National Forest.
[FR Doc. 2010-25755 Filed 10-12-10; 8:45 am]BILLING CODE 3140-11-P