On Feb. 26, 2020, the State Executive Council approved four negotiated metallic mineral leases to a Minnesota-based company, Vermillion Gold. These leases cover 1,668 acres, including 1,037 acres of county tax-forfeited lands and 631 acres of school trust land in Itasca County. Revenue generated from mineral leases on tax forfeit lands goes to support the local school district, county, and township, while revenue from mineral leases on school trust lands supports public schools.
The map and data tables below display the four approved leases – and active state nonferrous metallic mineral leases in the area.
Maps and Data
Vermillion Gold currently holds six active nonferrous metallic mineral leases in Itasca County and eight active leases in St. Louis County. The company originally filed an application with the Commissioner of Natural Resources in 2017 for 25 state nonferrous metallic mineral leases in Itasca and St. Louis Counties covering 11,479.64 acres.
On Jan. 8, 2018, the DNR posted information about Vermillion Gold’s lease request on its website. The posting included a map, data regarding DNR’s land use and environmental screening, GIS data and a Microsoft Excel data table. The DNR accepted and considered public input about the areas requested for lease. The DNR notified affected local units of government and tribal governments. Vermillion Gold subsequently amended its lease request to substantially reduce its size.
Prior to offering state lands for lease, the DNR conducts a land use screening for environmental and public use features. Some areas are completely excluded from potential leasing, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyagers National Park, lakes listed in the Public Waters Inventory, the Mississippi River headwaters corridor, platted lake shore lots, and old growth stands. Other features are flagged as special features and are noted in a lease for special consideration if exploration activity might affect them. Special features include designated trout streams, wild rice waters, state trails and recreation sites, endangered or threatened species, and imperiled native plant communities.
What are mineral leases?
A state mineral lease does not mean that the holder of the lease has the right to start a mining operation. 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.