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No ruling on PolyMet lawsuit motions

A federal judge in Minneapolis will decide later on two motions filed in the lawsuit by environmentalists challenging the U.S. Forest Service land swap for the PolyMet copper mine site. Judge Joan Ericksen on Friday heard two hours of testimony o...

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PolyMet officials give a tour of facilities at the old LTV processing plant near Hoyt Lakes, now owned by PolyMet, in December 2013. (News Tribune file photo)

A federal judge in Minneapolis will decide later on two motions filed in the lawsuit by environmentalists challenging the U.S. Forest Service land swap for the PolyMet copper mine site.

Judge Joan Ericksen on Friday heard two hours of testimony on a motion from the federal government and PolyMet, asking that the case be dismissed, and another motion from the environmental group WaterLegacy that asks the judge to issue an order preventing the land exchange until the case is decided at trial.

Ericksen will issue a written decision on the motions at a later date.

Minnesota-based WaterLegacy in January filed suit in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Forest Service seeking to overturn the agency's approval of a 6,650-acre land swap for the PolyMet copper mine site. The group says the land was drastically undervalued at $550 per acre, shortchanging taxpayers and giving PolyMet a sweetheart deal.

It's one of four separate lawsuits challenging the land swap, the first major federal government action in the PolyMet saga.

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PolyMet needs the Forest Service land between Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt because it sits on top of the deposit of copper, nickel and other valuable metals the company wants to dig - the first-ever copper mine in Minnesota. In exchange for the mine site, PolyMet purchased and is trading to the federal government an equal amount of undeveloped land within the border of the Superior National Forest.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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