Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

Prospect of growth intensifies debate about PolyMet tailings dam – by Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – April 7, 2018)

Questions over whether the state is demanding the highest possible environmental and safety standards in the rebirth of a 1950s-era tailings dam are growing more urgent just as Minnesota’s first proposed copper nickel mine is reaching the final stage of regulatory approval.

Throughout the last decade of environmental review and bitter debate, the $1 billion project by PolyMet Mining Co. has always been anchored to a 2.5-square-mile taconite basin near Hoyt Lakes that would eventually hold hundreds of millions of tons of ore processing waste — perhaps for centuries.

Environmental groups, which have long argued that the design is risky, have now made it a primary focus of their request for a legal review of the project that is now awaiting a decision by state officials. Continue Reading →

Trump Is ‘Saving Us’: Minnesota Mining Country Warms to Tariffs and G.O.P. – by Mitch Smith (New York Times – April 4, 2018)

EVELETH, Minn. — On northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, where evergreen trees stretch on for miles and snowpack lingers into the spring, a political shift is underway.

Generations of residents have gone to work in the mines, endured cycles of booms and layoffs, and mostly voted for Democrats. But President Trump’s tariffs on imported steel are being celebrated as a boost to the local taconite mines, which supply American steel mills, and Republicans are hopeful that they can flip the area’s congressional seat in November.

“President Trump is keeping his promises that he made on the campaign trail,” said Pete Stauber, a retired police officer and former professional hockey player who is running for Congress as a Republican. “He talked about leveling the playing field for the American worker. He did that with the tariffs.” Continue Reading →

‘THIS IS A SIGN OF HOPEFULNESS. WE AREN’T DEAD YET.’ – by Leah Ryan (Mesabi Daily News – February 28, 2018)

AURORA — Headlines seen in the Mesabi Daily News over the years, dating back about two decades, document the sometimes-turbulent progress of PolyMet. As early up and downs of the NorthMet project mirrored the cyclical mining industry, few thought it would take this long to get to this point.

What has never been turbulent is the support PolyMet has received from Iron Rangers who depend on mining jobs to support their families. Now, as the reality of the PolyMet project draws even closer, opinions and fortunes on the East Range are proving to be ever optimistic.

“We are being rewarded for extreme patience,” commented Aurora City Councilor Douglas Gregor. “I would not have been as enthusiastic if the agencies hadn’t done what they have … We have a highly environmentally regulated state which has encouraged the mining companies to become environmentally conscious. With both environmental consciousness and the economic stimulation, this project is incredible.” Continue Reading →

In Duluth, more concern about copper-mining impact – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – February 8, 2018)

Supporters of the proposed PolyMet project won the field Wednesday night in Aurora on the Iron Range, but on Thursday evening in Duluth opponents of Minnesota’s first-ever copper mine made their case.

About 1,500 people attended the public meeting on permits for the proposed mine — about two-to-one against the project — with dozens on both sides speaking at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

It was the second of two meetings held to take public comments on the most important of 21 permits PolyMet needs in hand before it can begin to mine copper, nickel and other valuable metals near Babbitt and process them in an old taconite plant near Hoyt Lakes. Continue Reading →

Cliffs CEO promises continued growth in 2018 – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – January 25, 2018)

Cleveland-Cliffs had a good year mining and selling Minnesota and Michigan iron ore in 2017, the company reported Thursday, and should have an even better year in 2018.

Cliffs nearly doubled net revenue, hitting $371 million in 2017. That’s up from $199 million in 2016 as the company and industry continue to rise out of the global iron ore doldrums of 2015.

The nation’s largest producer of taconite iron ore pellets, used to make steel, had full-year 2017 consolidated revenues of $2.3 billion, compared to the prior year’s revenues of $2.1 billion, although revenue in the fourth quarter was actually down from 2016. Continue Reading →

Clarke ready to move Mesabi Metallics forward – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – January 22, 2018)

NASHWAUK — Tom Clarke leaned forward in a squeaky office chair in a drafty construction-site trailer, pulled out his phone and touched an app that exposed a countdown clock that flashed 171 days, 6 hours, 36 minutes and 28 seconds.

“That’s how much time we have to get this moving. I show it to everyone who is working on this project,” Clarke said earlier this month. “But we’re going to get there before that date.”

The zero hour on that clock is the June 30 deadline for Clarke’s Chippewa Capital Partners to have money in the bank, contractors on site and construction advancing full-speed on the Mesabi Metallics combined taconite mine, processing center and iron plant. Continue Reading →

State of Minnesota releases PolyMet’s draft permit to mine – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – January 5, 2018)

The state of Minnesota has given its preliminary blessing to the construction and operations plan for the state’s first-ever copper-nickel mine, releasing PolyMet Mining Co.’s draft permit to mine for public review Friday.

The draft permit from the Department of Natural Resources includes specific plans for how PolyMet would mine near Babbitt and process ore near Hoyt Lakes over the next 20 or more years.

The permit release signals the state is generally satisfied with how PolyMet plans to build, mine and then close the operations without harming the environment — especially without releasing potentially acidic mine waste into the St. Louis River ecosystem. Continue Reading →

Exports of iron ore pellets lift St. Lawrence Seaway freight volumes – by Eric Atkins (Globe and Mail – December 15, 2017)

Asian demand for U.S. iron ore is driving up freight volumes on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Overall cargo tonnage, including mining products and grain, rose by 8.5 per cent to 33 million tonnes on the water route as of the end of November, from the same period a year ago, the Chamber of Marine Commerce said on Thursday.

Shipments of iron ore pellets, which are used to make steel, rose by 34 per cent to 7.4 million tonnes as China secured raw materials to feed its manufacturing facilities. Demand was also aided by higher commodity prices, Canadian demand for domestic ore and U.S. tariffs that have spurred sales to U.S. mills on the lower Great Lakes. Continue Reading →

PolyMet proposes $544 million to cover Minnesota mine’s early environmental risks – by Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – December 13, 2017)

PolyMet Mining Corp. says it will put up $544 million in financial protections for the first three years of construction and mining at its proposed copper-nickel facility in northern Minnesota to insulate taxpayers from any environmental damage that could result.

The so-called “financial assurance” is the last piece required in PolyMet’s application for a permit to construct a $650 million mine and processing plant near Hoyt Lakes, the company said.

The assurance estimate in PolyMet’s financial proposal, which is considerably higher than the company predicted a year ago, now goes under state review. Continue Reading →

Sulfide mining: the most fateful decision Minnesota will ever make – by C.A. Arneson (Minn – December 12, 2017)

On Nov. 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act of 2017 (HR 3115) [PDF], facilitating perpetual pollution of Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Sponsored by Rep. Rick Nolan, HR 3115 has been received in the U.S. Senate; if attached to another bill it could slide through, selling Minnesota’s birthright to the highest bidder with scarcely a whimper.

If it passes the U.S. Senate, HR 3115 would exchange lands acquired for watershed protection for use by the most water polluting industry on the planet. It would render the pending lawsuits against the PolyMet land exchange for its proposed NorthMet mine null and void, the people’s right to seek justice in the courts stolen.

Where is the outrage? Minnesotans need to speak loudly, clearly – with the ballot if necessary – declaring they will not allow their representatives to turn our lake country into a sulfide mining cesspool. Water is becoming desperately scarce worldwide. Minnesota’s clean – incredibly rare – wealth of freshwater is its future. Continue Reading →

Mining foe: No. No matter what; Twin Metals project, MINER Act injected into Joint Powers meeting – by Tom Coombe (The Ely Echo – December 8, 2017)

An item that wasn’t even on the agenda stirred some of the most passionate discussion at Monday’s sit-down with area legislators and other key officials.

One of the area’s leading opponents of copper-nickel mining, Ely business owner Steve Piragis, declared that he’d continue to oppose the Twin Metals Minnesota project even if federal regulators conclude it would “meet or exceed” current environmental standards.

That came during a mini-debate with Aurora Mayor-Elect Dave Lislegard and was spawned by discussion of the MINER Act, legislation approved just days earlier by the U.S. House of Representatives. As the bill advanced by U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) awaits action in the Senate, Elyite Becky Rom railed against it in an appeal to aides of both U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D), and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Continue Reading →

Controversial measures to clear way for more Minnesota mining spark debate in U.S. House – by May Rao (Minneapolis Star Tribune – November 29, 2017)

WASHINGTON – Two controversial measures from Minnesota congressmen, both of which would ease the way for mining expansion in northeastern Minnesota, have divided the state’s congressional delegation while spurring a broader environmental debate in the U.S. House.

The House on Tuesday passed legislation by DFL Rep. Rick Nolan that would finalize a land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and PolyMet Mining. Nolan said his bill is key to advancing PolyMet’s proposed northeastern Minnesota copper-nickel mining project, with 6,690 acres of private land becoming public while 6,650 acres of contiguous forest and wetlands would fall under PolyMet’s control.

“This bill is a win for taxpayers, for the environment, and for good-paying jobs,” Nolan said. Other prominent DFLers, including Gov. Mark Dayton, have supported Nolan’s proposal, although it does not currently have a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. Continue Reading →

IRON MINING ASSOCIATION OF MINNESOTA NEWS RELEASE: Iron mining contributed $96 million to region in 2017 (November 21, 2017)

More than $96 million from iron mining taxes went back into the communities in 2017, according to the Department of Revenue’s 2017 Mining Tax Guide which was released yesterday.

These tax dollars were distributed in 2017 based on the 2016 production year. The report shows Minnesota’s iron mines produced more than 29 million tons of ore in 2016 – the lowest production since 2011.

“This just goes to show what a huge impact Minnesota’s iron mining industry has on our region,” said Iron Mining Association of Minnesota (IMA) President Kelsey Johnson, noting that global pressures aided in the temporary idling of more than half of the iron mining facilities in Minnesota in 2016. Today, all the pellet producing facilities are running once again and operating at full capacity. Continue Reading →

[Minnesota Mining] Fighting for mining in D.C. – by Tom Coombe (Ely Echo – November 1, 2017)

Leaders of a grassroots pro-mining organization say they’re making progress in the nation’s capital – one meeting at a time. Fight for Mining Minnesota made its presence felt in Washington, D.C. this week, as three members of the group – including former Ely Mayor Joe Baltich -lobbied members of Congress, Congressional aides and reached out to the Trump administration.

The visit wasn’t linked to specific legislation or a committee hearing. Instead, Baltich joined former Elyites and FMM leaders Cindy and John Stene to connect and reconnect with key decision makers.

“All of them gave us hope,” said Baltich. “They tell us ‘we’re moving, maybe not moving as fast as you guys would like us to but we’re moving.’ There are so many hoops to jump through, but we’re getting there.” Continue Reading →

[Northern Minnesota Mining] APOLOGY ACCEPTED. BUT WAS IT SINCERE? – by Sen. David Tomassoni (Hibbing Daily Tribune – October 27, 2017)

The whole incident reported in the New York Times magazine makes me believe that the environmental extremist movement led by Becky Rom and her husband, Reid Carron, showed their true colors.

They aren’t only opposed to copper, nickel and precious metals mining. They want to stop all mining, iron ore mining included. They probably don’t like logging or farming, either.

It came to me as I was sitting on my deck drinking a beer (metal chair, a byproduct of mining; wooden deck, from logging; beer, from hops and grains from farming). I thought, now what’s wrong with sitting on my deck and drinking a beer. Then I thought, I wonder if the anti-mining people have metal chairs on their decks? Continue Reading →