A petition to conduct an environmental review on mineral lease sales has been rejected by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The petition was filed by landowners in northeastern Minnesota, where exploration for copper and nickel is picking up. Mining companies pay the DNR for the right to explore for valuable minerals. Sometimes private individuals own the land above the minerals.
The petitioners had asked the DNR to hold off on the most recent lease sale, and study possible environmental effects of the sale.
The DNR's Randall Doneen said once a company submits an exploration plan, the DNR decides whether to study possible effects of the exploration.
Most forms of exploration are unobtrusive, so environmental review is prohibited, Doneen said. The law allows an environmental review only when there is "physical manipulation of the environment."
"Many of the leases we sell, there's zero exploration on those parcels," Doneen said.
"When you're doing mineral exploration, such as mapping, geophysical tests, those are exempt from environmental review."
The petitioners have not decided how to respond to the denial.
• Follow Stephanie Hemphill on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mpr_hemphill