I was just starting to think that every single thing that could go wrong in the effort to stop or limit destructive copper-nickel-sulfide mining in the fragile Boundary Waters ecosystem was going to go wrong. Then, suddenly, a reversal of fortune.
This is complicated but for those not following, I’ll try to provide an explanation.
The Boundary Waters contains rock near the surface that miners want to mine. And, very little can be done to stop this, given that we chose over the last few years to put Republicans in charge, and they are puppets of industry, especially extractive industries like mining.
Part of the process of mining in the boundary waters, which are legally protected from mining is to remove the protections by “swapping” land that is not in the protected area for land that is in the protected area. This is known as the Polymet Land Swap because Polymet is the the company that wants to do this particular mining. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been convinced, against their constituent’s demands, that the mining will continue. So, the land swap seemed a done deal, and everything that various opponents to the project have tried has failed.
Until just a few moments ago. One effort to limit or stop the mining is to insist that the courts have a look at the relative value of the land being swapped in this deal. The usual powers had tried to get that taken off the table, and it seemed successfully, until today. Under public pressure, netotiators in Congress have worked out a deal to drop the limit on the court’s consideration of relative value. It is all here in this press release from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 24, 2018 End congressional delays, let courts finally review PolyMet land exchange Saint Paul, Minnesota — Monday, congressional negotiators announced that a provision to end court review of the PolyMet land exchange had been dropped from the National Defense Authorization Act. Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is one of the organizations asking for a court review of the PolyMet land exchange, and released the following statement: “Sixteen months ago, we asked a federal court to review the PolyMet land exchange to ensure it provides an equal value exchange for taxpayers and public land users,” stated Kathryn Hoffman, CEO of Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “Attempts to derail this review through congressional action have stalled the finalization of the land exchange and delayed justice for Minnesotans. This could have been done by now – it’s time to end the delays and let the courts do their job.” In March 2017, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, The W.J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, and Center for Biological Diversity asked a federal court to review the land exchange, arguing that it illegally undervalued public land. There are three additional lawsuits that argue that the PolyMet land exchange violates federal laws. In March 2018, U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson dismissed PolyMet’s motions to dismiss these lawsuits, but indefinitely stayed all of them pending congressional action. On June 28th, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it had completed the transfer of over 6,600 acres to PolyMet, but this action is subject to court review and can be modified or reversed if found to be in violation of federal law.