The U.S. Forest Service signed the Final Record of Decision on Monday, which authorizes a land exchange with PolyMet Mining, Inc.
The exchange calls for the Forest Service to convey 6,650 acres of federal land in exchange for acquisition of 6,690 acres of non-federal lands.
The decision will transfer the surface property owned by the Forest Service to PolyMet, which controls the sub-surface, or mineral rights.
Now that PolyMet owns the surface property, it enables the proposed development of the NorthMet copper-nickel mine.
PolyMet is still waiting on federal and state required approvals.
The decision follows an environmental analysis and public engagement process.
The Final Record of Decision shows a description of the modified Proposed Action, which will be implemented and includes the rationale for the decision.
PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service will now begin the realty transfer process.
Congressman Rick Nolan released a statement about the exchange on Monday, saying "This is wonderful news for our Iron Range," and that "We are another step closer to making the Polymet initiative a reality."
Before the Forest Service can move forward with implementing the decision, the agency must print, publish and mail the Final Record of Decision, and must publish a legal notice.
Additional steps include the following:
PolyMet also released a statement, saying the land exchange is a win for both parties, with the Forest Service receiving lands within its boundaries that have better public access, as well as recreational, research and conservation opportunities.
PolyMet went on to say surface land and mineral ownership in and around the NorthMet ore body and plant site were consolidated.
State and federal regulatory agencies issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the project in the fall of 2015, with the state later validating the Final EIS.
The validation allowed the door to open for permitting.
PolyMet says it expects various draft permits going on public notice sometime around mid-year.
You can learn more about the permitting process on PolyMet's website.