The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has received new requests for negotiated nonferrous metallic minerals leases from Kennecott Exploration Company (Kennecott) and from Vermillion Gold, Inc. (Vermillion). Both companies have been actively exploring for nonferrous minerals for a number of years.
Kennecott already holds a number of state metallic mineral leases in Aitkin and Carlton counties and has requested to add one 40-acre parcel to an existing lease in Aitkin County. Vermillion also holds state metallic mineral leases in Itasca and St. Louis counties. Vermillion’s current request seeks three additional leases covering 866 acres in St. Louis County.
Maps and data
Vermillion currently holds 14 leases covering 4,856.12 acres of land in Itasca and St. Louis counties.
- In Itasca County, six leases cover 2,461.37 acres of land.
- In St. Louis County, eight leases cover 2,394.75 acres of land.
Kennecott currently has 69 leases covering 29,413.38 acres of land in Aitkin and Carlton counties.
- In Aitkin County, 48 leases cover 21,970.03 acres of land.
- In Carlton County, 21 leases cover 7,443.35 acres of land.
Before offering state lands and minerals for lease, the DNR collects extensive data on land uses and environmental features. This critical study of the land helps DNR determine whether to offer specific locations for lease and set special conditions the company must follow during exploration to protect Minnesota’s natural environment. For each lease request, the DNR carefully considers the presence of surrounding trout streams, wild rice waters, state trails and recreation sites, endangered species, native plant communities and other resources. Areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Mississippi River headwaters corridor are not available for lease.
The public input period is now closed.
The State Executive Council must approve the negotiated lease
Under Minnesota law, the State Executive Council – the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, and Minnesota Attorney General – must approve all state metallic minerals leases, including negotiated leases, before DNR can issue them.
Following consideration of the public input, the DNR will make a final decision about whether to negotiate with the two companies and present proposed leases to the Executive Council. The State Executive Council’s next meeting on August 25, 2021 is open to the public. It is possible that Kennecott’s and Vermillion’s lease requests will be considered by the State Executive Council at that meeting, if the DNR decides to recommend them to the Council. Information about Executive Council meetings involving minerals leasing is posted here and the State Executive Council’s website.
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.