The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is making plans to offer leases in October for metallic minerals exploration and mining in three northeast Minnesota counties.

Lease sale plans were published in the Environmental Quality Board Monitor and the State Register on Sept. 17. Legal publications for the affected counties began this week in qualified newspapers. Notice of the intent to hold the sale was previously announced in July.

The leases under consideration are in Aitkin, St. Louis and Lake counties. The public lease sale will be held Oct. 24.

Most of the potential tracts have been offered for lease multiple times in the past. Other tracts will be offered for the first time. It is the state’s 33rd sale of mining leases since 1966. A list of properties offered for leasing can be reviewed by visiting the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/lands_minerals/leasesale.

Areas not considered for mineral exploration and mining leases are state parks, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other protected lands.

The state’s offer of mining and exploration leases is the beginning of a long process toward development of a mine. Once exploration occurs, a mining company often conducts further research to examine the commercial viability of a project. Furthermore, any project is subject to the state’s environmental review processes and all necessary permits before it could start operation.

In many cases, it takes 10 years to begin a mining project from the initial stage of exploration.

The public lease auction is a sealed bid auction. Bidders must meet certain qualifications under Minnesota law. Sealed bids must be received prior to the close of business the day before the sale. There will be a determination of successful bidders at the bid opening, and a subsequent review of all high bidders to verify qualifications.

The DNR will make recommendations on successful bids to the state’s Executive Council, which makes the final determination on leases. The Executive Council holds its next scheduled meeting on Dec. 6. The Executive Council is made up of Gov. Mark Dayton, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, Attorney General Lori Swanson and Auditor Rebecca Otto.

Mineral ownership is complex, and it is important landowners understand how it works. The mineral ownership is a separate property interest that is distinct from the surface ownership. In many cases, the state or other private entities own mineral rights that have split from the surface ownership. The surface owner may be a private or public entity.

Prior to the awarding of leases, the DNR will identify any privately owned surface taxpayers of record that may be affected. After the bid opening, the state will notify those surface owners of parcels for which there was a successful bid

Minnesota holds mineral rights on approximately 12 million acres in the state. These mineral rights have been acquired through federal grants, tax forfeitures, mineral forfeitures and exchanges.

Moreover, the state also owns surface lands in many locations where private interests hold the mineral rights, and those mineral rights can be sold or leased at the discretion of the mineral owner.

The DNR’s July notice of intent to offer the leases on state lands was the first step in identifying potential lands for mineral exploration and leasing. Not all lands identified in the July notice are being offered. The DNR has researched and narrowed the list of potential leased lands, while consulting with DNR staff, local governments, county officials, tribal interests and other interested parties.

The DNR website (www.dnr.state.mn.us/lands_minerals/leasesale/index.html) provides an opportunity for the public to learn more about mineral rights and leasing. The DNR has a list of Frequently Asked Questions under its Lands and Minerals Division section.

Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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