Managing mineral wealth for St. Louis County: Julie Marinucci
By Dana Kazel
It’s no secret that our region is home to a wealth of minerals. A lot of mineral deposits happen to be beneath tax forfeited lands, which St. Louis County is responsible for managing. From 2015-2017, tax forfeit royalty revenue totaled more than $4.5 million, and evidence suggests that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. So the questions become: How much wealth is there? And what’s the best way to preserve that wealth for St. Louis County tax payers?
To answer those questions and more, St. Louis County has developed a minerals program, recognizing the importance of minerals – and the almost certain benefits – to the county as well as the state, cities, townships and school districts. Mineral revenues are distributed by formula: 20 percent goes to the State of Minnesota. The remaining 80 percent is divided with 4/9s going to the local school district, 3/9s to the County, and 2/9s to the local city/township.
So the goal of the program is to manage the mineral wealth of St. Louis County through the responsible development of mineral resources while maintaining a focus on the local communities, economy and environment. Multiple county departments are working together in the program, recognizing that the key to success is the development of exceptional mineral expertise.
Enter Julie Marinucci.
Marinucci, a Chisholm native with a degree in Mine Engineering from Michigan Tech, joined the county in March in the newly created position of Mineral Development Specialist. Marinucci has spent the bulk of her career serving the iron mining industry on the Range, working with it from many angles, including mine operations, engineering, and now land manager.
“This role provides a huge opportunity to help develop the mineral resources of St. Louis County but also help to support the mining industry as a whole,” said Marinucci. “The role provides a bit of mine engineering, community interface and land use planning and reclamation, all areas I find very interesting.”
Marinucci, working on behalf of the county and in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Lands and Minerals Division, is tasked with actively managing, marketing and preserving the mineral wealth of St. Louis County.
In the short term, she’s working to better understand the internal systems and statutes that support and govern mineral development. That means working closely with the County Attorney’s Office on mineral ownership and leasing efforts, and with the Planning and Community Development Department on land use planning activities.
Marinucci’s long term goal is to position St. Louis County as a leader in responsible mineral development to benefit the state, county, local cities and schools.
St. Louis County is home to world class mineral deposits, and the County Board was progressive in recognizing the importance of these deposits locally but also globally, said Marinucci. “This position will help develop this asset responsibly while balancing the many demands on the County’s land.”
Her work will also have a significant financial payoff for the county, according to County Commissioner Tom Rukavina, who pushed to create the Mineral Development Specialist position.
“We have severed mineral rights we own with various mining companies,” said Rukavina. “I’m happy that we brought somebody of (Marinucci’s) quality on board. She’s hit the ground running, and is going to be bringing a lot of money into our county coffers.”
That expectation of financial return is spelled out in the official job description, which describes developing, “strategic plans, policies and goals for the management of mineral resources on tax forfeited land and for market-based financial returns from the sale of mineral resources.”
Beyond that, her responsibilities include directing the evaluation of industrial mineral resources, including sand, gravel, and peat, and ferrous and non-ferrous metallic mineral resources throughout the County; and providing mineral resource information to support comprehensive planning involving mineral extraction. Marinucci also is responsible for promoting and administering the leasing of tax forfeited lands for mineral exploration and extraction, and developing mining and reclamation plans. Through her work, she’ll also resolve mineral ownership and related property tax issues.
“Julie has stepped in and provided the mineral expertise needed by St. Louis County,” said Mark Weber, director of the county’s Land and Minerals Department. “She has exceeded all expectations in terms of job knowledge, responsibility, public outreach and community involvement, and effective communication with stakeholders including the DNR, mining companies, the County Board and Administration.”
Said Marinucci, “At each stage of my career, land use planning has been a focus. Looking at the next resource to mine, maximizing the extraction of the ore and finally looking forward to the next generation of land use through reclamation.”
She sees her role as a complement to the work that the DNR is doing to manage the state’s mineral interests. “I have enjoyed a great working relationship with the DNR and have worked at almost all of the taconite operations on the Range,” Marinucci said. “This role will allow me to bring my experience to the table while learning about the non-ferrous opportunity in our County and work to develop mineral revenue for the County residents.”
Beyond the financial benefits she expects to bring to the county, Marinucci says increased public awareness about the benefits of mineral development is another way to measure the success of her new role. “I strive to be a good working partner with the stakeholders in the industry to create and sustain a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable mining region.”