The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said turnout was strong this week for a mining lease sale officials held for state lands that could contain metallic minerals.
The sale, held Tuesday, resulted in 123 bids from six companies for a little over 100 parcels of state land the DNR decided to open for prospecting and exploration. The number of bids for the sale was more than double what it has been in recent years, but the number of land parcels was also larger, said Marty Vadis, director of the DNR's Lands and Minerals Division.
Vadis said companies have shown a recent interest in looking for copper, nickel, gold and other metallic minerals in Minnesota. That interest prompted state officials to open up more land for exploration.
"The fact that metal prices have improved over what they have been is probably one factor," Vadis said. "Minnesota has good geology and companies are recognizing that."
The DNR will now review all the companies that bid on state land leases to make sure they have the right financial and technical capabilities to explore the lands. The state's Executive Council will then have to approve the bids.
Vadis said the companies have a long way to go before they do any actual mining. If through exploration they decide they want to open a mine, the company would have to go through an extensive environmental review process.
Only one proposed non-ferrous mine is currently in that process in Minnesota. A draft environmental impact statement is under review for PolyMet Mining, which hopes to open a copper and nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes.