Sunday, October 9, 2011


I spent my entire life dreaming about a life in the country. We finally found the ideal location for us in the north woods of Minnesota. Bears, wolves, moose, small town, friendly people, beautiful scenery. We couldn't ask for a better spot, or so it seemed.

Turns out all that driving north to house hunt and countless hours on the internet sifting through properties was in vain. Ya see, Ely has a little secret. Well, Minnesota has a secret. Home & land owners own their "surface" property but not the minerals underneath, which is all fine and dandy if you live in the twin cities like we do. There isn't a real chance in hell that miners will come through here looking for iron or taconite but drive a few hours north and you have a real problem. Why? Because Ely and the surrounding areas like Grand Marais, Isabella, etc... are prime spots for mining. Northern MN is known for its mining. In fact, Minnesota has a long mining history dating back to the 1800's and since nickel, copper and platinum have become hot commodities the mining companies want to move back in. Problem is, Ely is no longer a mining town. Ely is a tourist town. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, known for its pristine forests and abundant wildlife draw in countless tourists every year and Ely sits right at the edge of the BWCA.

So... back to the mining issue. Although the state of Minnesota owns the right to the minerals much of the land with valuable minerals beneath is privately owned and most of those land owners had no clue that the minerals didn't belong to them. This would be a non-issue if it weren't for miners sniffing in the area.

The DNR, mining supporters (whoever those crazy people are) and state law claim mineral exploration leases are going to create a boom in our slagging economy. (I'll skip the part where I'm tired of our government (local and beyond) claiming that all these political decisions like removing protections of our water, air and land are necessary to create jobs).

The law in Minnesota states: Companies that explore for minerals on private property are required to negotiate with the landowner, and put the property back to its original condition. But if they cannot agree on access, the company can legally condemn the land.

According to Rebecca Otto, our state auditor, none of the residents should worry. There is a very SLIM chance that valuable minerals would be found on their property.

Well, as far as my husband and I are concerned, and it seems the many residents up north feel the same, a slim chance is just one chance too many. Our governor has delayed the mining leases for six months to give the property owners time to appeal to our state legislature which the odds are not stacked in favor of the owners. So for now, we are holding off until something equally as awesome presents itself. *sigh.


UPDATE: I checked my deed and I own the mineral rights on my current property. People who live in the twin cities and the communities surrounding the twin cities either own their mineral rights or partially own. Seems this is solely a Northern Minnesota issue afterall. Is it time to country home hunt in Central or Southern MN?


Jim Davis said...

this certainly is a set-back for you, and surely a disappointing one at that. Don't give up hope, though. Things can always change. The north woods is, as you most certainly know, an exceptionally special place. Keep those dreams alive!

dixiebelle said...

Oh no, what a dumb law!

Writingfor5 said...

NO way!!!! I love your last line, but I can see why you feel this way. Who knows why you are delayed, but it is happening all fr a reason. Who know the perfect spot might not be ready yet for you all.

-Your fellow Chinan

SoapSudsations said...

Is this a law just in Minnesota? Maybe it means you need to find a summer home in another state?

Teresa Robeson said...

How totally frustrating! And scary that they can just condemn your land if they can't reach a deal with you as the land owner. :(

I like what Jim said!

Michelle said...


Thanks! I'm hoping things turn around in the next 6 months. If not, we'll keep looking and hopefully it is like Writingfor5 said, the right place will come along. We thought we had the perfect place a couple months ago but the owner didn't want us to inspect the home. We were sooooo disappointed but it turned out to be the best thing since this new issue came up. I would have been much more upset if we had purchased that place and then learned about this.

Michelle said...


I'm not sure if this is just a MN law. I'm trying to learn more about that because as much as I love Minnesota I'd be willing to relocate if we could find our dream home elsewhere. Right now I'm very attached to my state for a multitude of reasons so hopefully things up North change but who knows... :(

Michelle said...


That is the big battle right now. The law states that the owner has to "approve" of the mining but then it also states that the mining company can condemn the property if the owner refuses all offers. Well, the Govenor agrees that the law needs to be rewritten because right now it is purely up to interpretation. It can't be both ways... need approval from owners but can condemn. It doesn't make sense. Figures, the stupid law was written in the 1800's. Seriously, why are we still following laws written over a century ago????

Peacocks 'n' Paint said...

Awww...I'm so sorry! I know you had your heart set on moving to that area! I hope something better comes along!