DNR's role in the State nonferrous metallic minerals lease sale


Since 1966 the DNR has offered nonferrous metallic minerals leases on state-owned mineral rights through a public competitive sealed bid offering known as the Metallic Minerals Lease Sale.

What are Nonferrous Metallic Minerals?
Nonferrous metallic minerals refers to all metals except iron ore and taconite. The metallic minerals state lease category includes elements such as copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold, silver, cobalt, chromium, zinc, lead, bismuth, tin, tungsten, tantalum, or niobium.

The DNR has a longer history of leasing for ferrous minerals such as taconite and iron ore, however this webpage is focused on nonferrous metallic minerals leasing.



A state metallic minerals lease grants the lessee authority to explore and discover a mineral deposit but with certain conditions. The lessee is under lease terms that have conditions to help protect the public and environment (see lease form). Any exploration on state land requires the explorer to send an Exploration Plan to the DNR for approval before any exploration on the ground can begin. If a lessee does discover a mineral deposit, environmental review and mining permits are mandatory before mining can begin.

Metallic Minerals Lease Sale Rules
(MN Rules, parts 6125.0100 to .0700)

Exploration Plans and Regulations


Leases need Executive Council approval

All state leases for nonferrous metallic minerals must be approved by the Executive Council (Minnesota Statutes, section 93.25, Subd. 2). The Executive Council consists of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and attorney general.

Executive Council Approval


Why does the state lease its lands for mineral exploration?
There are two primary reasons why the state grants leases of its mineral rights:

First, is to support the goal of the Permanent School Trust Fund to secure the maximum long-term economic return from the School Trust Lands consistent with the fiduciary responsibilities imposed by the trust relationship established in the Minnesota Constitution, with sound natural resource conservation and management principles. Revenue earned from School Trust Lands goes into the Permanent School Trust Fund. Allowing private minerals exploration companies to explore on School Trust Lands supports that goal since minerals have generated 90% of the historic total revenue to the Permanent School Trust Fund. There are also fiduciary responsibilities to the university trust lands and the tax-forfeited lands.

Second reason, the state has an obligation to support Minnesota Statutes, section 93.001 which sets forth state policy to “provide for the diversification of the state's mineral economy through long-term support of mineral exploration, evaluation, environmental research, development, production, and commercialization.” With these reasons understood the state also has stringent rules concerning the potential environmental impacts of nonferrous metallic minerals development and exploration as stated in Minnesota Rules, Chapter 6132.

Lease Sale 2015

The 2015 State Metallic Minerals Lease Sale is scheduled for November 16, 2015 at 9:00am. Information related to the upcoming lease sale is provided under the tabs below.
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Lease Sale 2015 News

DNR to hold metallic minerals lease offering

October 7, 2015: The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is initiating the sale of leases for state-owned metallic minerals. Areas offered for lease are in Aitkin, Carlton, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching and St. Louis counties and total 88,572 acres.

The lease sale involves nonferrous minerals, which are all metals except iron ore and taconite. Examples of nonferrous metallic minerals are: copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold, silver, cobalt, chromium, zinc, lead, bismuth, tin, tungsten, tantalum and niobium.

The DNR published a list of potential lease areas on June 22. Based on public input, company interest and other factors, the agency removed 13,474 acres in St. Louis and Cass counties from the lease sale.

Under Minnesota law, the DNR is charged with managing state-owned minerals for exploration and development. Revenue from the metallic mineral leases benefits public schools, local taxing districts, and the state's general fund. This is the 34th sale of leases for state-owned metallic metals.

Companies interested in submitting bids may obtain bid forms and instructions by contacting the DNR's Lands and Minerals Division, 651-259-5959. Sealed bids must be submitted before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13. A public bid opening will take place Nov. 16 at 9 a.m. in the lobby of the DNR's Central Office, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul.

The DNR will then review all bids and notify potentially affected landowners. Notifications will go to the surface rights owners of parcels that attract bids. The DNR will help these landowners understand what leasing might mean for them and their rights as surface owners.

Based on the bids received and evaluation of the bidders' qualifications, the DNR will prepare a recommendation for the state's Executive Council for consideration at its March 2016 meeting. The council -- comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state auditor -- will make final decisions about whether to approve the leases.

A lease does not automatically grant the leaseholder permission to mine. Before a state-owned parcel can be mined, the leaseholder must comply with all legal requirements for environmental review and permitting. These same standards apply to nonstate minerals.

Most state metallic minerals leases end within five years. Historically, only about two percent of areas under state metallic minerals leases have had one or more exploratory borings. Prior to any exploratory activity, leaseholders must submit a minerals exploration plan to the DNR, which then imposes any restrictions deemed necessary to limit impacts to resources and property owners.

The sale notice will be published in the EQB Monitor and State Register Oct. 12. For the next several weeks, newspapers in the counties where the leases are being offered will also be publishing the notice.

DNR Notice of Lease Sale (pdf)

For archived Metallic Minerals Lease Sale news please visit the Lands and Minerals News webpage:
Lands and Minerals News and Public Notices


Lease Sale 2015 Statistics

Lands being offered for the 2015 Lease Sale

Approximately 88,572 state-owned mineral acres within 177 mining units are being offered for lease in 6 counties:

  • Aitkin: 22,163.77 acres / 38 mining units
  • Carlton: 819.45 acres / 2 mining units
  • Itasca: 12,435.8 acres / 26 mining units
  • Kanabec: 800 acres / 2 mining units
  • Koochiching: 11,628.69 acres / 33 mining units
  • St. Louis: 40,724.2 acres / 76 mining units

More information on state lands being offered for lease:

  • 48% of the mining units have been leased before
  • 82% of the mining units have been offered in past public lease sales (1966-2012)
  • 23% of the lands offered are School Trust Lands
  • 62% of the lands offered are Tax-Forfeited Lands

Areas offered versus awarded leases

  • On average 8% of the areas offered for lease in 33 public lease sales became leases.
  • On average 10% of the areas offered for lease in the last 5 public lease sales became leases.

State leases and exploration drilling

  • Only 2.4% of state leased parcels have had exploration drilling. This is according to a DNR analysis of data between 1966-2011.
    Learn more

The statistics above do not suggest future trends in public lease sales or exploration drilling.

Lands Offered for Lease
(Final Mining Unit Book) and Web Map

Public Input Archived

The list of lands were available for public input from June 22, 2015 through August 24, 2015. The public input received on the areas under consideration for the next state Metallic Minerals Lease Sale is available for viewing. The DNR received 470 letters via email and U.S. mail. DNR staff compiled the public input into PDF documents, but no other changes were made in the documents as submitted. The documents are posted online for public review in a compressed zip file. You can access these documents by going to the DNR's Metallic Mineral Lease Sale Public Input webpage:
Public Input Webpage

The documents are available in alternative formats. The documents are also available for viewing in the DNR Central Office in St. Paul. Please contact us at: MMLeaseSale.dnr@state.mn.us or 651-259-5959 if you would like to view the documents or would like them in an alternative format.


Lease Sale Process, FAQs, & History

Learn about DNR's Metallic Minerals Lease Sale and more about nonferrous metallic minerals exploration and regulations.
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Lease Sale Process 

The DNR has revised the metallic mineral lease sale process as well as the land use screening criteria. Provide below is a presentation, fact sheet, and document detailing the revised process and land use screening criteria.

Presentation »

Fact sheet »

Land use screening »

Lease Sale FAQs

The fact sheet below features a number of questions and answers about nonferrous metallic minerals leasing, exploration, and regulation.

FAQ fact sheet »

Leasing History

History of State Nonferrous Metallic Minerals Leasing - 20 Facts  »

History of State Leasing and Public Lease Sales for Nonferrous Metallic Minerals(1966-2014):

  • Chart: Public Lease Sales- Offered and Awarded »
  • Chart: Active Leases »
  • Chart: Terminated Leases »
  • Chart: Active Leases and Terminated Leases Overtime »
  • Download Slideshow: Active and Terminated State Leasing maps from from 1966-2014  »