Mining Companies Could Use Eminent Domain in Minnesota

Source: Patch.com

A handful of northern Minnesota landowners are worried that mining companies may use eminent domain to take over land in order to mine minerals. 

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources owns the mineral rights which are now being offered for lease without notification to the property owners. Even though the residents who built cabins on their land own the surface rights, they are worried that the mining companies may ultimately seize land entirely through eminent domain.

Minnesota law prohibits the sale of mineral rights, however leasing them is perfectly legal, according to the DNR Factsheet.

To protect themselves against the possibility of mining companies using eminent domain, the landowners have  requested assistance from Rep. Nora Slawik to sponsor a bill that would prohibit the use of condemnation to take land if no agreement is reached.

Residents like Gus Axelson, who own land that could be effected by rights leasing are pushing for a change in then 2006 law. Mr. Axelson appealed to the state’s Executive Council which oversees approval of mineral rights sales. For now, the Council has delayed the sale of leases, giving land owners an opportunity to push for changes in state law.

“These mineral leases are very scary,” Axelson said. “We didn’t know the extent to which the mining companies dominate and control the landowners.". Mr. Axelson also pointed out that the cabins are cultural icons in Minnesota and to take them away at will destroys the whole idea of what it means to own a cabin, thus ruining the cultural icon.

Slawik said that the bill didn't get a hearing because there was no companion bill in the Senate, and will most likely be handled by the Executive Council.

It is unclear whether the land owners at one point or another had an opportunity to purchase mineral rights and the reasons behind not taking such precautions.