So many other States allow special rights for mining interests. These statutes were enacted in order to create employment for the mining industry. When minerals are taken underneath privately-owned property, the question is one of whether such activity is a “public use” under a given statute or constitutional provision.
Some States are initiating referenda to limit the old statutory delegation to the mining interests. Minnesota may have to deal with the referenda issue soon.
A 2006 Minnesota law forbids the government from taking a person's property to benefit another private business. The law states that "eminent domain may only be used for a public use or public purpose." According to this law, "public benefits of economic development, including an increase in tax base, tax revenues, employment, or general economic health, do not by themselves constitute a public use or public purpose."
What does this mean for mineral lease claims across Minnesota?
Without special treatment, owning mineral rights would not entitle a company to take surface land it doesn't own. The company could mine by tunneling from adjacent land or it could do what the rest of us do -- negotiate and buy land or easements without coercing the owner.
Companies, however, point to a 100-year-old statute that appears to give mining interests special privileges. If a company with a minerals lease fails to make a deal with the property owner, the company could tell the state attorney general to condemn property rights for the benefit of the mining interest.