Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

Federal judge hands Twin Metals major win in fight over mining near Boundary Waters – by Jennifer Bjorhus (Star Tribune – March 17, 2020)

http://www.startribune.com/

Copper-mining opponents assailed the decision as a “slap in the face.”

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has dealt a significant blow to environmental groups fighting to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from copper-nickel mining in Minnesota.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that the Trump administration acted within its authority when it reissued two mineral leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in 2018.

The Obama administration had previously denied the company’s request to renew its two leases to mine on 5,000 acres of public land in Superior National Forest after the U.S. Forest Service concluded that copper mining so close to the Boundary Waters was too risky, and it could cause “serious and irreparable harm” to an “irreplaceable wilderness area.” Continue Reading →

Bill to ban copper-nickel mining draws sharp contrast between Boundary Waters, Iron Range – by Dan Kraker (Minnesota Public Radio News – February 6, 2020)

https://www.mprnews.org/

A bill that would ban copper-nickel mining on a huge swath of federal land near the Boundary Waters got its first hearing in Congress Wednesday in Washington.

But the fight over the legislation — and what it stands for — got underway on Minnesota’s Iron Range last week, in a packed union hall in the city of Virginia. “I am tired of the Iron Range having to endure these attacks on our way of life,” Pete Stauber, the Republican congressman who represents the region, told the crowd.

When Stauber says “our way of life,” he means mining. Iron ore mines have operated for well over a century in northeastern Minnesota. There are fourth-generation miners working there today, descendants of immigrants who mined the ore that made the steel that helped win world wars. Continue Reading →

OPINION EXCHANGE: Counterpoint: Why a green world will need more copper – by Ryan Sistad (Minneapolis Star Tribune – January 29, 2020)

http://www.startribune.com/

Ryan Sistad, of Duluth, is outreach coordinator for Better in Our Backyard. https://www.betterinourbackyard.com/

Supply and demand are subject to change — unpredictable change in policies or in the marketplace — which makes it incredibly important to have a plan in place to supply our economy with what it needs to grow and thrive.

When it comes to transitioning to a reduced-carbon or carbon-free energy economy, Minnesota is truly faced with this new supply and demand challenge. All of this makes the question asked Jan. 23 in “We don’t need more mining to go green” confusing.

The author asks: “[I]s it actually urgent to pull more copper and nickel out of the ground?” He then claims that in debates over mining copper and nickel in Minnesota “what goes largely undiscussed are the actual supply and demand forces around primary copper and nickel.” Continue Reading →

Editorial counterpoint: McCollum’s mining-ban bill shortchanges environment review – by Frank Ongaro (Minneapolis Star Tribune – January 21, 2020)

http://www.startribune.com/

It’s no surprise that the Star Tribune Editorial Board supports U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s bill banning copper-nickel mining (“Bill offers vital BWCA protections,” Jan 19).

Unfortunately, McCollum’s bill is a desperate attempt to pre-emptively sidestep rigorous review processes already well-established under federal and state statutes to determine the feasibility and safety of mining projects on public lands.

All mining projects in our state — including taconite, iron ore and other extractive industry developments that power our economy and were explicitly left out of this bill — must undergo extensive environmental and feasibility studies. The statutes were enacted to assure a fair, predictable process built on scientific and technical evidence, not the shifting winds of politics. Continue Reading →

Minnesota court rejects major permits for PolyMet mine – by Steve Karnowski (Washington Post – January 13, 2020)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Associated Press – ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday rejected some of the most important permits for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota, giving a major victory to environmentalists.

A three-judge panel ruled that the state Department of Natural Resources erred when it declined to order a proceeding known as a “contested case hearing” to gather more information on the potential environmental impacts from the mine. The court also said the agency erred when it issued PolyMet’s permit to mine without imposing a fixed term on that permit.

So the court sent the dispute back to the DNR with orders to conduct the potentially lengthy hearing, during which an administrative law judge would take testimony and sort out conflicting evidence. Continue Reading →

Minnesota appeals court rejects three PolyMet permits, sends them back to DNR for hearing (Minneapolis Star Tribune – January 13, 2020)

http://www.startribune.com/

Environmental groups, Fond du Lac tribe cheer decision to require further state review.

Plans to build Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine suffered a major setback Monday when the state Court of Appeals reversed three permits issued to PolyMet Mining Corp. and kicked them back to state regulators for additional review.

Chief Judge Edward Cleary said the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) erred in not holding so-called contested case hearings on the permits to fully vet objections by environmental groups and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. In a decision released Monday, he ordered the DNR to hold such a hearing.

In addition, Cleary said, the DNR should have specified time limits for the mine’s entire life cycle in PolyMet’s all-important permit to mine. Although PolyMet says it intends to mine for 20 years, the permit isn’t clear about the time frame for activities such as mine reclamation and future maintenance of the huge tailings dam for mine waste that will be left behind, according to the court’s decision. Continue Reading →

Study of copper-nickel mining’s effect on Boundary Waters dropped from bill – by Jimmy Lovrien (Duluth News Tribune – December 17, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Language that would have required a study of the impact of copper-nickel mining on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was dropped from the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill this week.

It would have commissioned a report from the National Academy of Sciences “on the impacts on ecosystem services of the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness resulting from a Twin Metals sulfide-ore copper mine located in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness” but it was removed from the final agreement by White House negotiators, a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-St. Paul, who authored the bill, confirmed to the News Tribune Tuesday.

Twin Metals, owned by Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta, is hoping to build a large underground copper-nickel mine near Ely, within the Rainy River Watershed and on the edge of the BWCAW. Critics say the project could send tainted runoff into the BWCAW while supporters say the mine would bring much-needed jobs to the region. Continue Reading →

OPINION: ‘Green’ energy relies on copper-nickel mining – by Jeremy Munson (Minneapolis Star Tribune – December 11, 2019)

http://www.startribune.com/

Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, is a member of the Minnesota House.

Gov. Tim Walz’s mandates on electric vehicles and his push for 100% “green” energy represent a government takeover of energy, furthering an agenda of science deniers.

Make no mistake, this is an admirable goal. However, I am a lawmaker who embraces both science and reason, and these proposals are rooted in neither. Unlike many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I am not a science denier when it comes to green energy.

Last winter, I approached hundreds of green energy demonstrators in the State Capitol rotunda and spoke to a group carrying signs demanding electric vehicles mandates. I introduced myself and thanked them for supporting the PolyMet copper-nickel mine. Continue Reading →

Cliffs to buy AK Steel in $1.1 billion stock deal – by Jim Lovrien (Deluth News Tribune – December 3, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Cleveland-Cliffs, which owns several Minnesota and Michigan iron ore mines and taconite plants, will buy steelmaker AK Steel in a $1.1 billion stock deal, the companies announced Tuesday morning.

The move allows Cliffs to own AK Steel’s existing blast furnaces and electric arc furnaces, and supply the furnaces with its own iron ore pellets. Cliffs had long sold its pellets to other steelmakers.

That “vertically integrated steel company” model is used by U.S. Steel, which mines taconite and produces iron ore pellets at Keetac in Keewatin and Minntac in Mountain Iron that then supplies its blast furnaces throughout the U.S., and ArcelorMittal, which supplies its Indiana Harbor blast furnaces with pellets from its mines and plants at Hibtac in Hibbing and Minorca in Virginia. Continue Reading →

Talon plans more copper-nickel exploratory drilling near Tamarack – by Jimmy Lovrien (Duluth News Tribune – December 4, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

Talon Metals has asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for permission to drill more exploratory borings at its Tamarack copper-nickel mining project near the Aitkin-Carlton county line. The request comes just after the DNR approved Talon’s plans to re-explore several of its existing borings.

On Nov. 22, Talon submitted an exploration plan with the DNR detailing plans to drill exploratory borings in bedrock at four sites on active state nonferrous metal mineral leases about 1/2 mile north-northeast to about 3.5 miles north-northeast of Tamarack.

The borings would be drilled using the diamond core drill method and be temporarily or permanently capped upon completion in accordance with Minnesota Department of Health regulations. The DNR has 20 days from the Nov. 22 submission to approve or deny Talon’s plan. Continue Reading →

‘I Love You’ Goldman Sachs, Cliffs CEO Says Year After Outburst – by Joe Deaux (Bloomberg News – November 20, 2019)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

A year after Lourenco Goncalves raged against analysts from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. chief’s acrimony has reversed 180 degrees.

“I love you, you are the best commodity desk I have ever seen in my life,” he said at a conference organized by Goldman on Wednesday. That’s a far cry from last October, when Goncalves told metals and mining equity analyst Matthew Korn “you can run but you can’t hide” and criticized the bank for being “wrong about iron ore prices, years in a row.”

Wednesday marked the first time the chief executive officer of the top U.S. iron ore producer publicly sat down with Korn since Goncalves questioned the analyst’s calculations for concluding in a note the company “modestly missed estimates.” In their latest interaction, they were cordial to each other. Continue Reading →

COLUMNS: An Economist’s Column: Mining or the environment is a false choice; we can have both – by John Phelan (Duluth News Tribune – November 1, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

In a column on Twin Metals’ planned sulfide ore copper mine (Local View: “Arrowhead better served without mineral leases,” Oct. 20), local economist Kris Hallberg wrote, “On the surface, the controversy appears to be a fight between two competing priorities: jobs versus environmental protection. But a closer look at the current economy of the region and the changing nature of rural economic development tells a different story.”

Hallberg was right that the debate is usually presented as this choice. However, as we at the Center of the American Experiment showed in our 2018 report, “Unearthing Prosperity: How Environmentally Responsible Mining Will Boost Minnesota’s Economy,” it is a false choice.

Sulfide ore copper mining can be done in an environmentally sustainable way. Sadly, despite her awareness of this trap, Hallberg fell into it herself. Continue Reading →

IRON RANGE ENDOWED WITH MORE THAN ENOUGH ORE – by Lee Bloomquist (Mesabi Daily News – October 30, 2019)

https://www.virginiamn.com/

HIBBING — When Andrew Reed in 2007 was graduating from high school in Orr, students were under the impression that northeastern Minnesota’s taconite industry was on its last legs.

Within two years – hammered by a national and global economic downturn – total iron ore pellet production plummeted to barely more than 18 million tons. With taconite plants idled, production was far below the industry’s annual capacity of about 40 million tons.

“When I went to school, people thought it was dying,” said Reed. “But no, it’s just getting started.” Reed, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Lands and Minerals mineland reclamation specialist in Hibbing, today earns a living because of iron ore. Continue Reading →

Minnesota Supreme Court won’t take up copper-nickel mining rules – by Jimmy Lovrien (Duluth News Tribune – October 29, 2019)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a challenge by environmental groups over the state’s copper-nickel mining rules.

Environmental groups argue the Department of Natural Resources’ rules regulating the mining of metals that do not contain iron — such as copper, nickel and other precious metals — were too vague and, therefore, unenforceable. The DNR maintains the rules were strong yet flexible.

But in August, Minnesota Court of Appeals unanimously upheld those rules, and called the DNR’s non-ferrous rules “valid.” Six environment groups had filed the original appeal, but only two groups, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case after the Court of Appeals upheld the rules. Continue Reading →

‘Sense of Dread’: How a Mining Disaster in Brazil Raised Alarms in Minnesota – by Alistair MacDonald, Kris Maher and Kim Mackrael (Wall Street Journal – October 14, 2019)

https://www.wsj.com/

Mine-waste dams around the world have drawn new scrutiny after a collapse in Brazil this year killed hundreds

EMBARRASS, Minn.—An earthen dam is set to rise behind the trees of Dan Ehman’s 120 woodland acres in northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range, a region with close ties to mining for more than a century.

The planned dam, designed to hold back hundreds of millions of tons of mining waste, will be similar in structure and height—soaring 250 feet above Mr. Ehman’s century-old log cabin—to one in Brazil that burst in January, killing 270 in a tsunami of sludge.

That disaster, the deadliest of its type in half a century, has upended the global mining industry. The world’s biggest mining giants have spent months and millions of dollars re-evaluating their dams. Institutional investors are scrubbing their portfolios, looking for companies with risky structures—and helping to publicize potential stability issues. And environmentalists are getting new support from residents, some of whom are learning for the first time about the potential dangers of the dams in their communities. Continue Reading →