Minnesota’s Executive Council had what should have been a routine decision on the table at its October meeting — to approve or deny mineral leasing rights sought by mining companies.
For the past 15 years of so copper/nickel/precious metals exploration and plans for mining development have moved forward on a routine basis. But when a handful of landowners raised concerns about mining companies leasing rights to mineral deposits under their properties — which has been common practice — the Executive Council got cold feet and put off a decision, supposedly until April.
But when the council met in March, the issue was addressed. And now, as we near the end of April, there still in no decision. And last week, it was announced by a Department of Natural Resources official that the Executive Council won’t meet on the issue until June.
The excuse given is that Executive Council members are waiting for some legislative action on the issue to better clarify the process. But last fall, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook said there really is no need for the Legislature to act on the issue. And to hear that the Executive Council members are waiting for this do-nothing Legislature of 2012 to do something before it can put through important mineral leasing rights is laughable.
So let’s see if we have this straight: The Executive Council is waiting for the Legislature — which is totally dysfunctional this year — to act on something that isn’t even needed before it can allow mineral leasing rights for four companies that have already had their bids accepted for nonferrous exploration.
There is simply no excuse for this delay. It sends a terrible anti-economic development message to companies that provide good-paying jobs.
Sitting on the Executive Council is Gov. Mark Dayton, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Auditor Rebecca Otto and Attorney General Lori Swanson.
But this lack of decision falls on one person on the council — Gov. Dayton. He is the executive of the Executive Council. He could call a meeting at any time to let the leases flow.
He should have supported the mineral leases last October. And he certainly now should not wait for some unnecessary cover from an indecisive Legislature.