Private lawyers to defend North Dakota's mineral rights law

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Private attorneys will be hired to defend North Dakota over a new state law intended to clarify disputed ownership of minerals under a Missouri River reservoir.

North Dakota's Industrial Commission directed state lawyers to hire the private attorneys on Monday, after meeting behind closed doors to discuss the lawsuit filed last month by state Rep. Marvin Nelson and others.

Gov. Doug Burgum signed the measure last year limiting state mineral claims under Lake Sakakawea to a smaller area than it had claimed.

Nelson says the law is unconstitutional and a giveaway of state resources.

The Industrial commission consists of Burgum, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. Burgum and Stenehjem are named in the lawsuit.

The panel did not discuss costs of the lawsuit in public.