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.

2015 Lease Sale

The 2015 state nonferrous metallic minerals lease sale was held on November 16, 2015 at 9:00am. Four companies submitted bids on 47 mining units in Aitkin, Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis Counties. Of the 88,572 acres offered for lease, 17,737 (20%) received bids. A list of the companies, the mining units bid upon and the amount of each bid is posted in the Bid Information Summary Document.

DNR Bid Information Summary Document (.pdf)

Further information related to the lease sale is provided under the tabs below.
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2015 Lease Sale News

November 16, 2015: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held its 34th non-ferrous metallic minerals lease sale on November 16, 2015. Four companies submitted bids on 47 mining units in Aitkin, Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis Counties. Of the 88,572 acres offered for lease, 17,737 (20%) received bids. A list of the companies, the mining units bid upon and the amount of each bid is posted posted in the Bid Information Summary Document.

DNR Bid Information Summary Document (.pdf)

Following its review of the bids and bidder qualifications, the DNR will prepare a report and recommendation to the State’s Executive Council about the leases. The State’s Executive Council, comprised of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor, will decide whether to approve the leases. The Executive Council is currently expected to consider the leases at its meeting on March 2, 2016, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 106 of the Minnesota State Board of Investment, Retirement Systems Building, 60 Empire Drive, St. Paul, MN 55103.

The DNR is accepting written comments from the public specific to the bidders and properties bid upon until 4:30 p.m. on December 16, 2015. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to MMLeaseSale.dnr@state.mn.us or may be mailed to:

MM Lease Sale
DNR Division of Lands and Minerals
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4045

Any comments received from members of the public are classified as public data.

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


2015 Lease Sale Statistics

2015 Lease Sale Bid Results

Data and statistics on the 47 submitted bids are available in the DNR Bid Information Summary Document (.pdf).


Archived data on lands offered in the 2015 Lease Sale

Approximately 88,572 state-owned mineral acres within 177 mining units were 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

Other information on state lands that were 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

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.

Final Mining Unit Book and Web Map (map updated 11.16.2015)

Final Mining Unit Book (.pdf)  »

Interactive Web Map displays the 47 mining unit locations with submitted bids and those areas offered for lease that were not bid on. »

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. Provided 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  »