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Why does Minnesota possess mineral rights?

September 27, 2012
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

We don't live in northeastern Minnesota, so we're sure that those who do would suggest we butt out of their business. However, since the state of Minnesota is involved in mineral exploration issues, and since every Minnesotan is entitled to comment on state actions, here we go:

The state plans to auction off more metallic minerals leases. About 64,000 acres are involved, with untapped reserves of copper, nickel and precious metals at stake. The Department of Natural Resources is the entity that will award the leases, which would be located near the city of Hoyt Lakes, also near Tettegouche State Park, and in a rural area of eastern Aitkin County.

Some citizens are upset by the possibility of the leases leading to environmental damage, including fouled trout streams, drinking water wells and popular trails. They also worry about property values suffering. These critics want to see an environmental assessment worksheet completed before the leases go forward.

We see a more fundamental problem:?State ownership of mineral rights. The last time - in May - that the DNR awarded leases, many private property owners were stunned to learn that mineral rights on their property belonged to the state. The leases meant they suddenly had to contend with noisy drilling on or near their properties.

This makes no sense to us. None. If private property owners possessed the mineral rights to their property, they would be free to do as they please with their land. They could ignore the mineral wealth, reap the benefits themselves or sell the rights to someone else. Why is the state involved? To protect the environment? Nothing would stop the state from enforcing environmental laws. In the end, Minnesota simply doesn't need to be involved in what otherwise should be market activity or transactions.



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