State Prospecting Leases Postponed Again

For the third time this year, Minnesota’s Executive Council has delayed the sale of a set of northeastern Minnesota mineral exploration leases on properties where the state holds mineral rights but private individuals own surface land.

The Duluth News Tribune covers the story HERE.

The Council — which consists of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and attorney general — voted unanimously yesterday to wait six months before reconsidering the measure to lease the rights to mining companies. Governor Mark Dayton and Secretary of State, Mark Richie, led the call to delay action on the leases.

The delay was prompted over concerns about the lack of public understanding of state mining laws, some of which were written in 1870. Dayton said he will ask the state’s Department of Natural Resources to review all laws and regulations pertaining to mineral leases.

Ely and Isabella area property owners affected by the leases — more than 50 of whom attended the Council meeting — say they will use the time to petition the State Legislature to change current laws. Mining industry advocates fear the delay could slow the progress of mining projects in the area which could bring jobs to the area and royalty money to the state. They say that any changes made to state law now amount to changing the rules of play late in a game.

In June, the Council voted 5-0 to postpone the mineral rights sale of the properties in question, saying the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had not done enough to inform landowners of potential mining interest in their properties. Shortly before the Council’s September meeting, it removed discussion of the mining leases from the agenda, scheduling it instead for the meeting held yesterday.

Yesterday, ahead of the Council meeting, Minnesota Public Radio ran THIS story on the landowners’ concerns about the leases.

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