Public info on Minn. mining leases sought
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is selling metallic minerals exploration and mining leases but not sharing much information about the process with the public, according to Betsy Daub, policy director for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Daub said a the sale of leases on October 24 included areas in Aitkin, Lake and Saint Louis counties.
"Given growing concern about increasing mineral exploration and the potential for full-scale mining projects, we at the Friends recently sought to learn more about these particular leases," Daub wrote on the group's blog. "Metallic mineral exploration and development is creating a great deal of anxiety for Minnesotans as more people learn about sulfide mining's legacy elsewhere of toxic pollution, impaired waters, and taxpayer liability."
Daub reported that the DNR website gave legal descriptions of the lands involved and whether they are natural heritage sites of historic or archaeological significance, and identified whether the area need protection for bald eagle nests, rare plants, threatened or endangered species.
But Daub said that information is not enough. "We called the DNR's Office of Lands and Minerals. We discovered there is no process in place for sharing information with the public or providing answers to the kinds of questions we were asking," she wrote. "There is no public transparency for state mineral leasing, even though these are public mineral resources being leased, sometimes located under public lands, with potential impacts to other important public resources."
Daub said Lands and Minerals officials directed the group to contact the DNR's Natural Heritage Division, Minnesota State Archaeologist and the Minnesota Historical Society for the information it seeks.
She said mineral bidders will eventually have to file their "exploration plans" but will be obtainable only through the formal filing of Freedom of Information Act requests.
"The people in the DNR's Natural Heritage Division have pledged to send us what they can share, and we look forward to receiving it. But this is not a transparent process accessible by Minnesotans at large," Daub wrote.
She concluded, "Sulfide mining makes a lot of people nervous for our state's future. That nervousness isn't going away soon and is only going to increase if information about it isn't forthcoming. Providing accessible information through a reasonable process would be a wise step for the DNR to consider, and might even improve the public's confidence about the DNR's decisions."
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