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State Panel Approves 77 Disputed Mineral Leases

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/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.

There’s been a global surge for precious metals like copper, nickel and gold. Materials used in the manufacture of high tech goods, like cell phones and computers. Despite assurances from mining companies the process is safe, the landowners don’t believe it.

“This is not about jobs. It’s about mining companies insisting they have the right to seize the private property of taxpaying citizens,” said landowner Gus Axelson.

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.

One angry opponent brought a baseball, slamming it on the table- – telling lawmakers to “play fair”

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.

About 25 percent of the land those mining companies plan to explore is private land. The mining companies say it does not mean they will actually mine the property. Right now, it just gives them the right to drill in the Minnesota bedrock and see what kinds of copper nickel deposits are there.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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