State panel approves 77 disputed mineral leases

Published On: May 31 2012 01:10:49 PM CDT   Updated On: May 31 2012 01:05:09 PM CDT

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- A panel of top state officials has approved the sale of 77 mineral rights leases to four companies that want to prospect for copper, nickel and other valuable metals in scenic northeastern Minnesota.

The leases were held up last October to give home and cabin owners time to take their concerns to the Legislature and to give the Department of Natural Resources time to update its practices for notifying landowners who might be affected. About 25 percent of the land covered by the leases is owned by people who don't hold the mineral rights.

On Thursday, the Executive Council, led by Gov. Mark Dayton, unanimously approved the leases. While members sympathized with landowners who object to prospectors drilling on their land, they said the companies have met their legal requirements.