Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

2020 has been transformational year for Iron Range mining – by Jerry Burnes (Minneapolis Star Tribune – November 9, 2020)

https://www.startribune.com/

Associated Press – VIRGINIA, Minn. — When Lourenco Goncalves took the helm as CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources in 2014, he inherited a ore boat’s load of a mess: billions in debt, a declining reputation and a rumblings that the century-plus-old company would go belly up in bankruptcy.

Check that. He didn’t inherit the mess. He took it over — in a hostile fashion — to willingly enact his vision for the company, spending millions of his money to, in his words during a 2018 interview, “put my money where my mouth is.”

In the six years since, Cleveland-Cliffs (the company reverted back to its original name in 2017) has shed those billions of dollars owed, helped lead the Iron Range out of a massive industry downturn in 2015 and is ready to open the company’s first hot-briquetted iron facility in Toledo, Ohio. Continue Reading →

Election Will Decide Fate of Alaska Gold Mine, Shift to E-Cars – by Jennifer A. Dlouhy (Bloomberg News – October 29, 2020)

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/

(Bloomberg) — Oil drilling in the Arctic and the Pebble gold mine in Alaska aren’t actually on the ballot — but they might as well be.

The controversial projects are hanging in the balance of the presidential election, with Joe Biden’s vow to scuttle them. And dozens of other oil, gas and mining ventures planned across the U.S. face heightened risk of rejection or longer permitting times as the Democratic nominee focuses on promoting cleaner alternatives.

The threat extends even to some projects that already have federal permits. Lawsuits challenging government approvals create an opening for settlement agreements that result in more analysis and possibly canceled authorizations, said Height Securities LLC analyst Josh Price. Continue Reading →

Despite political spotlight, Iron Range town still waiting for economic spark – by Katie Galioto (Minneapolis Star Tribune – October 26, 2020)

https://www.startribune.com/

HOYT LAKES, MINN. – When Donald Trump became president and promised an extraordinary economic resurgence for Minnesota’s Iron Range, this small town of 2,000 seemed poised for a renaissance.

But four years later, Hoyt Lakes is more or less the same. The northeastern Minnesota city that’s home to the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine hasn’t gained or lost many jobs since Trump took office. Unemployment remains higher than the state average, while median household income is much lower than in other parts of Minnesota.

Presidential candidates thrust the Iron Range into the national spotlight this election cycle, claiming credit for its recent successes and blaming others for its struggles. Continue Reading →

Shifting Iron Range politics may not be enough for Trump in Minnesota – by Briana Bierschbach (Minneapolis Star Tribune – October 18, 2020)

https://www.startribune.com/

The scene in the northern Minnesota mining town of Virginia fit perfectly into the Trump campaign’s story line.

On one side of the street, a group of Republicans were waving Trump flags and singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” Across the street at the local steelworkers’ union office, a smaller group stood masked and silent, looking on with Joe Biden signs.

One of the Trump supporters made a crack about the size of the Biden crowd. Rob Farnsworth, a Republican state House candidate and member of the Minnesota teachers’ union, extended an invitation. Continue Reading →

Minnesota Supreme Court hears dispute over canceled PolyMet mine permits – by Jennifer Bjorhus (Minneapolis Star Tribune – October 13, 2020)

https://www.startribune.com/

The Minnesota Supreme Court will decide whether state regulators erred in issuing permits for PolyMet Mining Corp.’s copper-nickel mine without a special hearing, and could impose further review of the $1 billion project.

The state’s highest court became involved Tuesday in the landmark mine project near Hoyt Lakes — a new type of mine for the state — after an appellate court struck down three permits and sent them back to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a contested case hearing.

The lower court reversed PolyMet’s permit to mine and two dam safety permits in January, partly on the grounds that the DNR did not hold the contested-case hearing to vet significant objections from environmentalists and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who live downstream from the planned mine. Continue Reading →

History preserved: Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority turns restored structure over to city – by Jackie Jahfetson (The Mining Journal – July 1, 2020)

https://www.miningjournal.net/

MARQUETTE — Driving west into Marquette along U.S. 41, passers-by come across a stone structure that resembles an igloo on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

Were those curious aware at one time the kiln was used to burn wood into charcoal which fed blast furnaces that converted iron ore and limestone into pig iron during the late 19th century?

After the last of the 43 Carp River kilns collapsed in a heavy wet spring snowstorm in 2016, the historical sandstone structure has been resurrected and was officially turned over to the city of Marquette Monday during a ceremony. Continue Reading →

New lawsuit targets Minnesota’s copper-nickel mining rules – by Jimmy Lovrien (Minnesota Public Radio News – June 25, 2020)

https://www.mprnews.org/

Duluth News Tribune – Opponents of copper-nickel mining are urging Minnesota regulators to change the state’s copper-nickel mining rules to ban that type of mining within the same watershed as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters announced in a news release Wednesday it was filing a lawsuit under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act asking a judge to order the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources “to initiate a public process to amend state non-ferrous mining rules that would fully protect the water and air quality, wilderness character and other irreplaceable natural resources of the Boundary Waters” and “to prohibit sulfide-ore copper mining and related surface disturbance in the Rainy River-Headwaters.”

If successful, the rule change would effectively kill Twin Metals’ proposed underground copper-nickel mine, processing plant and tailings storage facility along Birch Lake, which flows into the BWCAW via the Kawishiwi River. Continue Reading →

DNR deems Twin Metals’ plan for copper mine near Boundary Waters ‘incomplete’ – by Jennifer Bjorhus (Minneapolis Star Tribune – June 24, 2020)

https://www.startribune.com/

Minnesota environmental regulators have published nearly 800 comments on the Twin Metals plan to build a copper-nickel mine just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, deeming the company’s project proposal “incomplete.”

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says it needs the clarifications and extra information before it can start the required environmental impact statement on the proposed mine, one of the most contentious mine projects in the state’s history.

The comments, dated June 15, are posted on the Twin Metals section of the DNR’s website. The agency has “determined the initial submittal to be incomplete,” it said. Continue Reading →

What are Joe Biden’s views on two of the most controversial environmental projects in Minnesota? – by Walker Orenstein and Gabe Schneider (MinnPost – May 11, 2020)

https://www.minnpost.com/

In late April, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign held a virtual event with Minnesota supporters to promote the Democrat’s plans to address climate change and a clean environment.

But while U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and other Biden surrogates talked about carbon-free energy, clean water, agriculture and electric cars, they did not touch on perhaps the two most controversial environmental issues in the state: copper-nickel mining in Northern Minnesota and the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline.

Many of the major Democratic candidates in the presidential race said they would oppose the Line 3 project, the proposed Twin Metals mine near Ely, or both if elected in the fall of 2020. Those stances heartened the environmentalist wing of the party and roiled trade unions and rural DFLers. Continue Reading →

Cliffs CEO optimistic demand for steel will return as automakers restart production – by Jimmy Lovrien (Duluth News Tribune – May 12, 2020)

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/

The “Big Three” automakers are preparing to restart manufacturing next week, and Cleveland Cliffs, a major producer of iron ore pellets on the Iron Range, is hopeful demand for steel will return with it.

Cliffs idled its Northshore Mining iron mine and pellet plant in Babbitt and Silver Bay in April until at least August, laying off 470 of its 570 employees, as steel demand plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. automakers Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler shuttered plants to help curb the spread of the virus.

With its recent purchase of steelmaker AK Steel, Cliffs is now supplying steel to “virtually all” U.S. automakers, Cliffs President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said. He said auto plants are reopening sooner than some expected. Continue Reading →

‘We were going really good, then this hit’ – by Lee Bloomquist (Hibbing Daily Tribune – May 4, 2020)

https://www.hibbingmn.com/

Northeastern Minnesota miners, essential industry hit hard in economic downturn

Less than 24 hours after Hibbing Taconite went quiet, maintenance mechanic and steelworker leader Chris Johnson had another job. Helping co-workers complete unemployment applications.

“Usually, someone with the state comes in and we have a big meeting,” said Johnson, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2705. “But with COVID, we can’t do that.” A little more than a month since Gov. Tim Walz designated the iron ore industry as essential, it’s essentially shut down.

Hammered by the national and state economic downturn, about 1,500 hourly workers of northeastern Minnesota’s 4,105 iron mining employees are being laid off. Continue Reading →

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 →