We’ve lived through this before. Survived it. And the challenges to Northeastern Minnesota now are similar to the challenges in 2001, the last time “we wondered if we were going to have an iron ore industry in the state of Minnesota,” as Frank Ongaro said at a chamber forum Tuesday in Duluth.
Then he was president of the Iron Mining Association. Now he’s executive director of Mining Minnesota, which advocates for the environmentally responsible mining of copper, nickel and other precious metals. He knows more than a thing or two about the industry, its incredible highs and its devastating lows.
“We’ve been interdependent — Duluth, Northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range — for 100 years. (The mining industry) has had its ups and downs. It’ll continue to have its ups and downs. … (Right now) we’re at a bottom,” Ongaro said. “But be assured, we have had these cycles, and we will come out of this cycle at some point, at some level.”
To do so we’ll have to wait out low global commodities prices. And we’ll have to overcome steel dumping, as much a threat to the future of Minnesota mining in 2001 as it is now, Ongaro said. It’s illegal, but that doesn’t stop China, South Korea and other nations from subsidizing their steelmaking and from keeping their steelmaking costs down by snubbing environmental, human-rights, health, safety, child-labor, unemployment and other protections.
Their cheaper-made steel simply squeezes the U.S. iron ore, taconite and steel industries out of the global market. Clearly, tariffs aren’t strong enough and international trade laws and other measures aren’t being enforced with enough vigor to prevent the destruction of steel-
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