Mining spinoff jobs threatened in downturn – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – November 25, 2015)

Three years ago, Mitch Robertson showed a reporter around his booming steel fabrication business in Virginia, with sparks flying and machines clanking and business as brisk as it had ever been.

In late 2012, the price of iron ore was over $130 per ton. U.S. steelmakers were pumping out finished product for new oil pipelines, trucks and refrigerators. And Minnesota’s iron mining industry was shiping iron ore as fast as the stuff could be processed.

TriTec, Robertson’s company, was booming as it helped keep the mining industry moving with repairs on heavy equipment and specially designed equipment for taconite plants — such as rock-proof fuel tanks for mining trucks.

All that has changed now, with taconite iron ore wallowing below $45 per ton, U.S. steelmakers idling production amid a sea of foreign steel imports and more than half of Minnesota’s mining industry shut down or about to shut down.

For TriTec, times are suddenly tough and about to get tougher. “Business is down about 30 percent from last year. And from what I hear it’s not going to go up fast in 2016,” Robertson said last week.

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