Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 13, 2017

Contact:  Marc Fink, (218) 464-0539,

House Committee Considers Bill to Advance Destructive Mine in Minnesota's Superior National Forest

PolyMet Mine Would Destroy Wetlands, Pollute Water, Harm Wildlife

WASHINGTON— The House Committee on Natural Resources will consider legislation Friday to fast-track a public land exchange in an attempt to facilitate the first copper mine in Minnesota. The PolyMet open-pit copper mine would destroy 1,000 acres of wetlands and more than 1,700 acres of critical wildlife habitat in northern Minnesota's Superior National Forest.

H.R. 3115, authored by Rep. Richard Nolan (D- Minn.), would authorize the land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and PolyMet Mining, helping pave the way for destruction of high-quality wetlands, risking long-term toxic water pollution in the Great Lakes and eliminating critical habitat for the threatened Canada lynx and gray wolf.

“This is an irresponsible giveaway of public land to a foreign corporation for an open-pit copper mine,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill would help pave the way to destroy key wildlife habitat, and it would risk permanent toxic water pollution in the Lake Superior watershed. Representative Nolan is forgetting that all Americans have a stake in protecting these precious public lands.”

Nolan's bill is a maneuver to get around existing law, which prohibits the open-pit copper mine in the Superior National Forest, and force through the land exchange, which is being challenged in court.

The PolyMet mine would destroy 1,719 acres of designated critical habitat for Canada lynx and gray wolves, creating toxic sulfide mine waste, enormous waste rock stockpiles, roads and other mining infrastructure. Most of the destruction would be permanent.

The mine also would wipe out nearly 1,000 acres of pristine wetlands and threaten Minnesota waterways. It would be located at the headwaters of Lake Superior, upstream from the St. Louis River, the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, as well as the Fond du Lac Reservation and the city of Duluth.

The Forest Service approved the land exchange in January. The Center and local conservation partners challenged the agency's decision in March, arguing that the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly consider the environmental impacts from the land exchange and the copper mine on endangered species.

Nolan's bill would require that the land exchange be completed within 90 days of the bill becoming law. Permits for the mine are still pending, including one from the Army Corps of Engineers required under the Clean Water Act to approve discharging fill material into the waters of the United States.

“This bill is a blatant end run around current laws to hand Superior National Forest land over to a mining corporation,” Fink said. “It should be stopped in its tracks.”  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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