By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

County learns of new mineral lease sales


Mineral mining interest continues in the area with new non-ferrous mineral leases being auctioned this fall by the State of Minnesota. Dennis Martin of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Lands and Minerals addressed a recent Carlton County Board of Commissioners meeting and listed 819 acres for exploration in Carlton County and 22,163 acres in Aitkin County.

Examples of non-ferrous minerals they look for include copper, nickel, platinum, gold, silver, cobalt, palladium, chromium, zinc, lead, bismuth, tin, tungsten, tantalum, and niobium. Kennecott has 18 active leases in Carlton County they have had since 1985. Kennecott has 12 holes drilled in the area along the Aitkin/Carlton county lines. Word has come from local Automba Township sources that Kennecott and Enbridge have not come to an agreement to go down the Sauvola Road with the pipeline corridor and that a short jog south for the line is being considered.

"Why the interest in this part of the state? During the formation of our continent a large volcano existed from Tamarack southeast to Lakeview and Automba townships," explained Martin. "Molten magma from deep within the earth's crust came to the surface as this volcano flowed. In time the minerals being searched for were left in the old volcano shaft and radiating out to the sides."

The numerous glaciers ground this volcanic mountain down just as the mountains of Duluth were reduced to rounded hills. Searching for these smaller pockets of minerals requires lots of drilling to determine the extent of the deposits.

"These types of mineral deposits need only a small mining imprint," explained Martin. "One copper/nickel mine in Michigan (the Eagle Mine) covers only 25 surface acres." It was noted that few people in the area own the mineral interests under their land.

Mining leases now up for sale this fall include: acreage north of Highway 27 and in about the middle of Beaver Township; acreage north of Tamarack about six miles; acreage northeast of Mahtowa Townsite; and acreage south of County Road 6 (Barnum Road) and east of the Glaspie Brook crossing in the Richardson hay swamp area.

The public can comment on this sale at the DNR website,

Commissioner Gary Peterson asked Martin, "Does a landowner, with or without mineral rights, get anything from mineral development?" Martin responded, "The mining company negotiates with the affected landowners."

Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Health and Human Services, requested and it was approved after extensive discussion to hire an additional 2.5 full-time employees to handle the growing computer work needed to handle health care cases. Lee said, "It now takes six hours of staff time to handle all the reporting work for our health care enrollees. In some cases the elderly or disabled have fallen asleep during the paperwork. It is estimated there will be an extra 1,000 hours of social worker time needed for all the new reporting regulations."

Lee explained staff time will be reimbursed according to time studies. Local matching funding may rise to $66,921. It was noted that waiting time for enrollees has backlogged a month. If the county does not hire staff now, revenue reimbursement from the state and feds will be lost. The aging population over 65 of Carlton County is projected to rise from 5,317 in 2010 to 10,610 in 2030.

Assistance for small cities in Minnesota, much like the gas tax funding of roads for counties, townships and large cities, was approved by the Legislature. To be used for only construction and maintenance of roads in their jurisdiction, the money allotted to area small cities is: Barnum $11,564; Cromwell $11,973; Kettle River $8,870; Moose Lake $34,483; and Wright $7,196.

Highway Engineer Mike Tardy asked to advertise for an assistant highway design technician. Rick Norgard is the new county foreman and with staff shuffling a technician is needed. Tardy commented, "There is a shortage of these technicians. I hope we find one. We have a $2 million sales tax road work schedule for next year. Very ambitious for the staff we have now. To be really up front I feel we could do more work with state bonding money if we had the staff to organize and supervise the work."


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