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.

The DNR has posted information on its website about these new negotiated lease requests, including interactive web maps and details for public input opportunities.

Leasing state lands and minerals in Minnesota

Minnesota Statutes, section 93.15, authorizes the DNR to determine which state-owned lands and minerals are available for lease. A state nonferrous metallic mineral lease gives exploration companies like Kennecott and Vermillion authority to explore for deposits of minerals like copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold, silver, and cobalt.

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.

Distribution of revenue from mineral leases requested by Kennecott and Vermillion

If leases of the areas requested by Kennecott and Vermillion are granted, the revenues will benefit Aitkin and St. Louis counties, Haugen Township, the City of Gilbert, the City of Virginia, their respective school districts, and public schools statewide. A portion of the revenues would pay costs for the administration and management of state mineral resources.

Public input is critical to the DNR’s decision

The DNR is seeking public input before we determine whether to negotiate with the two companies and present proposed leases to the State Executive Council for approval. All interested parties, including local governments, tribal nations, and landowners, are encouraged to review interactive web maps and data of the areas requested for lease. Written input about each company’s lease request will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. Aug. 1.

Mail: Minnesota DNR

Division of Lands and Minerals

Attention: Negotiated Metallic Mineral Leases

500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4045

The State Executive Council approval of negotiated leases

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 any 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 on both the DNR’s website and the State Executive Council’s website.

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