Exploration Plans

Before exploration activity can occur on state nonferrous metallic minerals leases, the explorer which is a state mineral lessee must submit an exploration plan to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which the DNR reviews and replies to. The DNR reply contains conditions and stipulations regarding historic/archaeological sites, natural heritage features (rare plants, animals, and other rare features), designated trout streams, and other special features. 


  • If the surface is owned by the state
    The DNR sends the exploration plan to the DNR surface land administrators, such as the area forester and area wildlife manager for review and comment. 
  • If the surface is not owned by the state
    The lessee is required to contact the surface owner, which may be the federal government, a county, a private commercial company, or a private landowner. This surface owner contact must be made at least 20 days in advance of any activities which will use the surface estate.
  • Public notifications
    The public is notified here within 5 business days of DNR receipt of the explorer's proposed plan.

    If you would like to be notified when an exploration plan has been submitted you can sign up for Lands and Minerals News below. 
  • List of exploration plans under review or approved »


The state has up to 20 calendar days to review the exploration plan and determine if changes are required or if conditions or changes in the plan are required. Examples of conditions or changes include the requirement for the explorer to do a detailed site survey of endangered plants, or to change the location of a proposed access trail. If more than 20 days are required for review the DNR contacts the lessee informing them that more time is needed.

DNR letter to lessee

After the review is complete the DNR will send a letter to the lessee which the lessee must sign. This letter approves the activities, subject to any requirements that must be met or adjustments made in order for the exploration to occur. 


Exploration plan proposals

Provided below is a list of submitted exploration plans that are currently under review and also those exploration plans that were approved by the DNR. A DNR prepared summary and map for each exploration plan are available to view and download here. The provided information is available for those exploration plans submitted after November 1, 2013.

Click on bars to expand for more information and summary map.

Under Review

None at this time



August 20, 2014: MMG USA Exploration LLC

MMG USA Exploration LLC submitted an Exploration Plan to the DNR on August 1, 2014 for exploration activities to be conducted on one state minerals lease in Aitkin County. The explorer proposes to conduct three types of ground-based geophysical surveys within State Minerals Lease MM-10490. These types of surveys will involve walking on the land with portable equipment. This exploration plan is not requesting approval of drilling activity. The surface land on this lease is owned by private parties. The explorer has proposed a Surface Use and Exploration Agreement to the surface owners. There has been active exploration for metallic minerals not far away within Aitkin County continuously since the year 2000, but never on this state minerals ownership block.

Summary Map (DNR Source) »

July 30, 2014: Encampment Minerals Incorporated

Encampment Minerals Incorporated submitted an Exploration Plan to the DNR on July 16, 2014 for exploration activities to be conducted on one state mineral lease in St. Louis County. The explorer proposes to drill 1 to 4 exploratory borings at each of the two drill sites during the winter of 2014-2015 when the ground is frozen. The Explorer plans to drill at an angle from the surface of the adjacent federal land parcel, and the angle drilling may cross into the state minerals ownership underground. The Explorer does not propose to conduct any surface exploration activities on the state mineral lease, except for the use of the existing winter access trail. The company has been exploring for copper, nickel and platinum group elements on state mineral leases in this township since 2008.

Summary Map (DNR Source) »

July 21, 2014: Kennecott Exploration Company

Kennecott Exploration Company submitted an Exploration Plan on July 3, 2014 for exploration activities to be conducted on 3 state mineral leases in Aitkin County, near the city of Tamarack. The company proposes to drill 10 to 25 exploratory borings between July 28 and December 31, 2014. The company also proposes to do geophysical surveys there. Kennecott Exploration Company has been exploring for copper, nickel and platinum group elements in this area since the year 2000.

Summary Map (DNR Source) »

November 8, 2013: Twin Metals Minnesota LLC

One drill hole is planned on State Lease MM-9764-N in T.61N, R.11, S.4, Lake County, MN.

Summary Map (DNR Source) »


Learn more about typical exploration activities:

If you have additional questions about exploration plans please contact:

Pete Clevenstine
Assistant Director
MN DNR - Division of Lands and Minerals
1525 Third Avenue East,
Hibbing, MN 55746
tel. 218-231-8443
fax 218-262-7328



Exploration Drilling Regulations

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Department Natural Resources (DNR) are both involved in regulations to protect the environment during metallic mineral exploration. For example there are many rules in the Water Well Code that protect groundwater during exploratory boring. 

Exploration Drill Site

Exploration drill site

These regulations must be followed before a company can do exploratory borings on either public or private land in Minnesota: 

  • Register the exploration company with the DNR,
  • Obtain an explorer’s license from the MDH
  • Notify both the DNR and the MDH at least 10 days prior to commencing an exploratory boring. The DNR conducts drill site inspection throughout the drilling activity to assure compliance with all relevant laws. 
  • On a state nonferrous metallic minerals lease the explorer must submit an exploration plan (described above) 20 days prior to the start of activities. The DNR reviews these plans prior to granting the right to proceed. 
  • Following completion of exploratory borings, the explorer must further comply with state law. They must submit a completed MDH report form that provides details on how the explorer sealed the boring. This ensures that the rules for sealing a borehole is followed.
  • The explorer must also submit a portion of the drill core samples to the DNR upon lease termination. These samples become public property, and this helps to limit future environmental impacts (or duplication of effort) by allowing others to view and analyze the drill core.

Exploration drilling vs. water wells

exploration drilling and water wells

Click to enlarge

To put the exploratory drilling activity into perspective, we can compare the small number of exploration borings done to the large number of water wells and other wells drilled statewide. This comparison is based on the MDH data for a period of 11 years. There were 1,031 exploratory borings during the timeframe 2000 through 2010 compared to 128,637 domestic water supply wells and other wells. Therefore, exploratory boring was a very small component of drilling in Minnesota, and represented less than one percent of the total drill holes in the state.

A recent DNR GIS analysis of 46 years of data (1966-2012) concluded that only 2.4% of the state leased parcels for nonferrous metallic minerals had an exploratory drill hole on them. This analysis used exploratory drill hole and state leased parcel data between 1966 and 2012. A subsequent GIS analysis looked at the same information though from the last 5 years (2008-2012) and arrived at similar results (1.8% of the state leased parcels for nonferrous metallic minerals had an exploratory drill hole on them). You can learn more about these two analyses on the DNR's nonferrous metallic minerals leasing webpage under history of state leasing versus exploratory drilling. Note that this is a study of past activities and doesn't imply or forecast results for future years. 


Learn more about state oversight of metallic minerals exploration activities:

  • *View the PowerPoint presentation regarding 'State Oversight of Metallic Mineral Exploration Activities' (August 21, 2013)

*The PDF includes embedded 'speaker notes' with additional information for select slides. The speaker notes can be viewed in Adobe Reader or Acrobat, and within the following internet browsers; Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, & Safari. Google Chrome does not display the speaker notes.



Environmental review, permitting, and reclamation - DNR role

For information on the DNR's role in environmental review, permitting of mines, inspections, and reclamation rules and standards please visit the DNR's Mineland Reclamation webpage.