Active State Minerals Leases

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The State of Minnesota leases state-owned mineral interests and surface interests for minerals exploration and mining through public sales and negotiations. From 1890 through June 2012, mineral exploration and mining on state-owned lands have generated $525 million. Revenue received from the state mineral leases is deposited into the appropriate fund or account based on land classification. 

State Minerals Leasing Revenue 2005-2014 »

12 million acres of state mineral interests

The Division of Lands and Minerals manages approximately 12 million acres of state-owned mineral interests. The Division offers state mineral leases through public competitive lease auctions and negotiations. The issuance of a state mineral lease does not mean that the holder of the lease has the right to start a mining operation; the state mineral lease holder must comply with all the state’s mining regulations and environmental laws and obtain the permits needed to open a mine.

Managing state mineral interests for schools, university, and local government

State-owned minerals are managed for the benefit of the schools, the university, and local units of government. Minnesota’s minerals management policy is based on the Minnesota Constitution, Article XI, Section 8, and on the laws of the state, including Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 93 and Minnesota Statutes, sections 11A.1616B.286, and 127A.31which have developed over more than a century of mineral exploration and mining. In summary, the minerals management policy of the state encourages private investors to take the risk to discover new mineral deposits, but mining may only occur if it can be done in an environmentally sound manner.

Approving state minerals leases

The State Executive Council (made up of the state’s five constitutional officers) provides “checks and balances”. Before a state mineral lease can be granted the State Executive Council must approve it. This includes taconite leases, nonferrous metallic mineral leases, industrial mineral leases greater than 160 acres and peat leases greater than 320 acres. 

Minerals lease types

The State of Minnesota has grouped minerals into five distinct minerals types described below (iron ore/taconite, nonferrous metallic minerals, industrial, peat, and residual). This webpage is related to state minerals leasing. The DNR has a separate webpage dedicated to mine permitting and mineland reclamation.

Please note that state construction aggregate (sand and gravel or crushed stone) leases are not included in the above state minerals leases report because they are considered a surface interest rather than a mineral interest. For more information on construction aggregates a DNR webpage focused on construction aggregate leases on state lands shows locations of current and past construction aggregates/earth materials leased sites, as well as future leasing opportunities. For other information, such as maps of construction aggregates or additional reference information see the MN DNR's Aggregate Resource Mapping Program webpage.

Reports and data on state minerals leasing:

Types of State Minerals Leases

Iron ore/taconite leases

taconite mine
  • Background: Most of the leases are for the mining of taconite, a lower grade iron ore. Historically, the State of Minnesota has been leasing its iron ore and taconite resources since the 1890s. All leases must be approved by the State Executive Council.
  • Statutes: The leasing of state-owned lands and interests in lands for govern the leasing for iron ore and taconite mining is governed by Minnesota Statutes, sections 93.14 - 93.11. The iron ore/taconite lease form is found in Minnesota Statutes, section 93.20
  • Permitted mines with state leases: 7 taconite mines with state leases. 
  • Reclamation authority:  Reclamation regulated under Chapter 6130. See the DNR's Mineland Reclamation Program webpage. 

Nonferrous metallic minerals leases

    drill site
  • Background: Include elements such as copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold, silver, cobalt, chromium, titanium, zinc, lead, bismuth, tin, tungsten, tantalum, niobium, or rare earth elements. The state has had an active program of leasing nonferrous metallic minerals since 1966. Between 1966 and July of 2015 the state issued 3,531 leases covering 981,000 acres of state-owned minerals. Of these, 291 leases covering 104,940 acres are currently in effect. The leases are usually issued through public lease sales (metallic minerals lease sale), but may also be issued through negotiations. All leases must be approved by the State Executive Council.
  • Statutes and Rules: The state of Minnesota issues leases for nonferrous metallic minerals mining units pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 93.25; Minnesota Rules, parts 6125.0100 - 6125.0700
  • Permitted mines with state leases: There are no permitted nonferrous metallic minerals mines. 
  • Exploration: Before on-the-ground exploration activity can occur on a state nonferrous metallic minerals lease, the lessee must submit an exploration plan to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The exploration plan is subject to the DNR’s review and approval.  The Minnesota Department of Health and the DNR are both involved in the regulation of metallic mineral exploration drilling in order to protect the environment. When a state mineral interest is leased by an explorer, it becomes part of the explorer’s land package, which may contain private, state and/or federal mineral interests. Typically, the explorer will conduct exploration on parts of the land package, and then make a decision as to whether to proceed or not. Often, only a portion of any given exploration land package has actual exploration activities conducted on it during the active term of the state mineral lease.
  • Reclamation authority: Mining reclamation regulated under Minnesota Rules, chapter 6132. See the DNR's Mineland Reclamation Program webpage. 
  • More information: To learn more about nonferrous metallic minerals see the DNR's nonferrous metallic minerals homepage.

Industrial minerals leases

    dimension stone quarry development
  • Background: Can include such products mined in Minnesota as dimension stone, silica sand, and kaolin clay, along with a list of potential future mineral discoveries such as diamonds. There has been dimension stone mining in Minnesota for more than 150 years. 
  • Rules: Leases for selected industrial minerals from state-owned or state-managed lands are issued under Minnesota Rules, parts 6125.8000-6125.8700. The rules authorize the Commissioner of Natural Resources to issue leases for the purpose of exploring for, mining and removal of selected industrial minerals.
  • Permitted mines with state leases: One dimension stone quarry on one state lease is being developed near Orr, MN.
  • Reclamation authority:  Reclamation is determined in the state industrial lease form which is specific to each project. 
  • More information: View or download the 1997 DNR document titled, "Leasing State-Owned mineral interests for Selected Industrial Minerals in Minnesota" (1997, 2 MB, This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.)

Peat minerals leases

    peat mine
  • Background: Peat is an accumulation of organic residues from partial decomposition of plant debris under damp anaerobic conditions. Peat is used primarily as a valuable soil amendment and potting medium. State lands under the jurisdiction and control of the commissioner of natural resources may be leased for the harvesting and removal of peat. The leases are usually issued through negotiation, but may also be issued through public lease sales. Leases for the removal of peat that cover 320 or more acres must be approved by the State Executive Council. Leases for the removal of peat from tax-forfeited lands are issued by the counties. 
  • Statutes: Minnesota Statutes, section 92.50
  • Reclamation authority:  Reclamation regulated under Minnesota Rules, chapter 6131. See the DNR's Mineland Reclamation Program webpage. See the DNR's Mineland Reclamation Program webpage. 
  • Permitted mines with state leases: 6 permitted peat mines with state leases. 

Residual leases

    residue mining
  • Background: Operation producing natural iron ore or natural iron ore concentrates. Produced from previously developed materials removed from natural iron ore mine. 
  • Statutes: Detailed definitions under Minnesota Statutes section 93.20, subdivisions 12 to 18.
  • Reclamation authority:  Reclamation regulated under Minnesota Rules, chapter 6130. See the DNR's Mineland Reclamation Program webpage. 
  • Number of companies with state leases: 4 

Table: State minerals leasing as of April 1, 2016

State Lease Type Active leases Active leases in acres
Iron ore/Taconite 136 12,484.21
Nonferrous Metallic Minerals 291 104,940.16
Industrial Minerals 9 3,919.19
Peat Minerals 9 3,690.45
Residue Minerals 16 3,102.22
Total 461 128,136.23