FEATURE-Minnesota landowners fear mining invasion

Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:54am EST
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* People own surface rights, companies own minerals below

* Jobs and economic development vs environmental protection

By Andy Greder

PINE CITY, Minn., Dec 13 (Reuters) - Mike Picek has always intended to pass along his hunting land and log cabin in the woods of northern Minnesota to his children and grandchildren - a plan now in jeopardy due to mining interests.

"All these years, I've been set on giving it to them, and now I could lose it," said Picek, an entrepreneur for 50 years.

Picek owns the surface rights to his land near Ely, a gateway to the popular Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but the state held the mineral rights beneath it and sold them in June, leaving him and many other landowners waiting to learn if mining companies will be digging into their land.

The next move is up to the mining companies, which are looking for copper, nickel and other metal deposits in the Arrowhead region near Lake Superior.

Drilling would mar the wild nature of the landscape and could diminish the quality of hunting, Picek and other landowners say. If profitable deposits are discovered, the mining companies could negotiate to lease or acquire some or all of their land.

The contentious lease sales in Minnesota reflect a broader conflict between environmental groups and companies looking for or transporting natural resources in the United States.   Continued...