State Nonferrous Leasing

Nonferrous Metallic Minerals

State Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Leasing
Public Lease Sale


Since 1966 the DNR has offered nonferrous metallic mineral 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, niobium.


A state metallic mineral lease grants the lessee authority to explore for 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 »

2017 Lease Sale

News and information is provided under the tabs below.
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Notice of Intent to Hold Sale » PDF

DNR Press Release on January 30, 2017: State Lands Being Considered for Metallic Mineral Leasing  »


Areas being considered for 2017 Lease Sale
Approximately 195,324 state-owned mineral acres are being considered for lease in 5 counties:

  • Beltrami: 560 acres / 3 mining units
  • Itasca: 95,614 acres / 233 mining units
  • Koochiching: 47,143 acres / 112 mining units
  • Lake of the Woods: 25,447 acres / 58 mining units
  • St. Louis: 26,560  acres / 100 mining units

Mining Units
State lands being considered are grouped into 506 mining units.
What is a Mining Unit?  »

  • 54% have been leased before
  • 99.8% have been offered in past public lease sales
  • 34% of the lands offered are School Trust Lands
  • 49% of the lands offered are Tax-Forfeited Lands

Areas offered versus awarded leases

  • On average 8% of the areas offered for lease in 34 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 2.2% of state leased parcels have had exploration drilling. This is according to a DNR analysis of data between 1966-2016.
    Learn more

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

Areas Being Considered / Map

The state lands being considered for the 2017 Metallic Mineral Lease Sale are listed in a draft mining unit book as well as shown on an interactive web map. The list of lands was available for public input from January 30, 2017 through March 31, 2017.
Draft Mining Unit Book » PDF
Interactive Web Map »

Public Input Received

The list of lands under consideration for lease was available for public input from January 30, 2017 through March 31, 2017. The DNR received four letters via email. They are posted here in a compressed zip file:
Public Input (.zip) »

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: 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 » PDF

Fact sheet » PDF

Land use screening » PDF

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 » PDF

Leasing History

History of State Nonferrous Metallic Minerals Leasing  » PDF

History of State Leasing and Public Lease Sales for Nonferrous Metallic Minerals (1966-2016):

  • Chart: Public Lease Sales- Offered and Awarded » PDF
  • Chart: Active Leases » PDF
  • Chart: Terminated Leases » PDF
  • Download Slideshow: Active and Terminated State Leasing maps from from 1966-2016  »

Why does the state lease its minerals?
The state leases its minerals on school trust lands to fulfill its fiduciary obligation to raise revenue for the Permanent School Fund. Minerals have generated about 80% of the historic total revenue to the Permanent School Fund. The state also has fiduciary responsibilities to raise revenues for the Permanent University Fund and the taxing districts and meets those responsibilities by leasing minerals on university trust lands and minerals acquired by the state through tax forfeiture.

The leasing of state-owned minerals supports the state’s 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.”
Minnesota Statutes section 93.001. »