Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

New Soudan mine tours go deep – into geology, that is – by Pam Louwagie (Minneapolis Star Tribune – September 15, 2018)

Geology groupies: Take note. For a limited time, the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is offering a new, more scientific walking tour geared toward explaining details about how geologists figured out where and how to extract iron ore from the area.

Guides at the park in northeastern Minnesota bring visitors a half-mile underground in an elevator-like cage. While typical tours then transfer visitors to a train for a ¾-mile ride to a large underground “room” where ore has been extracted, the new tours involve walking there.

“It gives us an opportunity to stop at locations that people on the train are never going to see,” said Park Manager Jim Essig. The new tours emphasize how mines were mapped, he said. Continue Reading →

Defeat for Minnesota wilderness protection means back to business for mining – by Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – September 10, 2018)

The federal government’s sudden decision to reopen mineral exploration just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was a resounding defeat for wilderness advocates. But for the mining industry, it means back to business as usual.

By 2016, when the U.S. Forest Service adopted the temporary ban on exploratory drilling, mining companies had already poked thousands of holes in the ground in northern Minnesota in a decadeslong hunt for copper, nickel, platinum and other precious metals.

Now, the grinding sound of the drill rigs in 234,000 acres of the Superior National Forest around Ely will resume and, over the next few years, probably increase, say those in the industry. More importantly, the decision to lift the ban makes it more likely that at some point all that exploration will result in a mine. Continue Reading →

Feds Lift Roadblock to Copper Mining Near Boundary Waters (Associated Press/Voice of America – September 6, 2018)

MINNEAPOLIS — The Trump administration on Thursday lifted a roadblock to copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northeastern Minnesota, reversing a decision made in the final days of the Obama administration.

The Obama administration in late 2016 withdrew around 234,000 acres of the Rainy River watershed near Ely from eligibility for mineral leasing pending a two-year study, citing the potential threat from acid mine drainage to the nearby Boundary Waters, the country’s most-visited wilderness area. The move could have led to a 20-year ban on mining and prospecting on the land.

The most immediate beneficiary is Twin Metals Minnesota, which hopes to build a copper-nickel-precious metals mine south of Ely. It plans to submit its first formal mining plan to regulators in the next 18 months. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: An Open Letter to the Iron Range – by Mark Dayton (August 28, 2018)

Mark Dayton is the Governor of the State of Minnesota.

Dear Friends,

I am as frustrated as anyone, by all of the setbacks that have delayed completion of the former Essar Steel’s taconite plant in Nashwauk. When I became Governor in 2011, the project had already been plagued by several years of broken promises, missed deadlines, and lame excuses.

After another missed deadline, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) gave Essar the legally required notice that we intended to revoke the company’s mineral leases of state lands in Nashwauk. Instead, Essar filed for bankruptcy, which under federal law blocked our actions and transferred control of the project’s future to a Bankruptcy Court Judge in Delaware. We were enormously frustrated by this maneuver; but we had no choice, other than to abide by federal law.

After several months of legal filings, the judge asked for bids from anyone who wanted to buy ownership of the project, pay off existing creditors, finish building the plant, and begin to produce pellets. Continue Reading →

Four things that need to happen before PolyMet mine’s future can be written – by Dan Kraker (Minnesota Public Radio News – August 28, 2018)

PolyMet Mining moved a tiny step closer to its goal of opening the first copper-nickel mine in Minnesota last week when the state Department of Natural Resources declined an environmental group’s petition for additional environmental review on the proposed mine.

But the controversial project, nearly 15 years in the works, still faces several hurdles before construction can begin, including lawsuits, potential administrative hearings, several key permits PolyMet still needs to obtain — and the significant funding the company needs to raise to build the nearly $1 billion project, which would include a mine just south of the Iron Range town of Babbitt, Minn., and a processing facility a few miles south in Hoyt Lakes.

The PolyMet proposal — and the prospect of a new copper-nickel mining industry amongst the forests and lakes of northeast Minnesota — is the most divisive environmental issue the state has faced in decades. Continue Reading →

Minnesota think tank wades into debate on economics of mining – by By Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – August 20, 2018)

Just as election season gets into full swing this fall, a Twin Cities think tank will wade into the fierce economic debate about copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota with a statewide advertising campaign that promotes the potential of the new industry.

John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment in Golden Valley, said the $270,000 campaign announced Monday will start after Labor Day. It will include highway billboards, TV and radio spots, YouTube videos and other social media ads that highlight the billions in economic benefits the state will reap from mining, according to a new report from the center.

“If voters understand the huge benefit of mining, they will want to see it happen,” Hinderaker said. “And an election is a good time to be talking about it.” Continue Reading →

[Minnesota Mining] Economist’s View: Mining generates 10 times more economic value than leisure, hospitality – by John Phelan (Duluth News Tribune – July 29, 2018)

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment (, based in Golden Valley, Minn.

This month, the News Tribune published a commentary by Sandra B. Zellmer and Alexandra B. Klass of the Center for Progressive Reform. In it, they argued against Twin Metals and the possibility of sulfide-ore copper-nickel mining in Northeastern Minnesota (Professors’ View: “U-turn on Twin Metals a massive giveaway of irreplaceable public resources”).

“(A Twin Metals) mine promises to be an economic loser,” they contended, saying that, “A 2017 study by Key Log Economics showed that copper-nickel mining in the Boundary Waters watershed would cost Northeastern Minnesota $288 million in lost revenue from visitor spending and lost property values amounting to about $509 million.
The 4,490 local jobs at risk would be 10 times the number of new mining jobs expected to be created, according to a study from the School of Business and Economics at University of Minnesota Duluth. The total tab? Between $402 million and $1.6 billion in lost annual income.” Continue Reading →

The Timberjay takes on the nation’s most heated mining battle – by Stephanie Pearson (Columbia Journalism Review – July 25, 2018)

“MINNESOTA AS TRUMP COUNTRY? DON’T BET ON IT,” Marshall Helmberger, publisher of The Timberjay, headlined his June 27 editorial, which ran a week after President Trump held a rally in the nearby city of Duluth. Like most of Helmberger’s editorials, the piece was expansive, gutsy, thoroughly researched, and left of center.

It was also written from the heart of the Iron Range, a taconite and iron-ore mining stronghold President Trump has zeroed-in on. There’s a hotly contested US House seat up for grabs in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, where Trump stumped for Republican candidate Pete Stauber.

And the Trump administration is quietly dismantling environmental regulations to pave the way for Twin Metals, a subsidiary owned by Chilean conglomerate Antofagasta, to build a controversial sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine near the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Continue Reading →

Cleveland Cliffs bullish on iron ore market for Minnesota mines – by Dee DePass (Minneapolis Star Tribune – July 23, 2018)

Cleveland Cliffs CEO bullish on future of state’s taconite, mining industries.

The CEO of Cleveland Cliffs has made one of the boldest statements yet on the resurgence of the taconite industry on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Lourenco Goncalves — whose company runs Hibbing Taconite, United Taconite and Northshore Mining in Minnesota — said demand for iron ore and a rising price for the mineral has resulted in second-quarter profits quadrupling year over year. He said he expects to see the same results into next year.

“Going forward, we expect 2019 to be a continuation of a great 2018, based on the renewed strength of American manufacturing, the multiyear positive impact of the tax reform implemented in 2018 in the United States, and our strong position as the supplier of iron ore pellets within the Great Lakes region,” he said in a statement. Continue Reading →

Copper mining worries many. Many also use copper. – by Jim Bowyer (Minneapolis Star Tribune – June 28, 2018)

Jim Bowyer is an environmental consultant, an emeritus professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota, and the author of “The Irresponsible Pursuit of Paradise.”

In all of the discussion about copper mining in Minnesota, there is a remarkable lack of references to copper consumption within our state. At the same time that wind and solar energy expansion and electric vehicles are being enthusiastically promoted, the critical role of copper (and nickel) to these developments is never mentioned.

A typical wind turbine contains 4 to 8 tons of copper. Solar collectors contain even more copper per unit of energy generated. Even more significant is the copper used in the production of hybrid and electric vehicles. A fully electric automobile contains three to four times as much copper as a standard vehicle — a hybrid about twice as much. As the market for fossil-fuel-free vehicles expands, so does our need for copper.

In late 2017, the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, estimated that conversion of just 8 percent of the global auto fleet to electric vehicles would increase global copper use by more than 40 percent. The World Energy Council estimated an even greater impact on copper demand. Continue Reading →

MINING TAKES CENTER STAGE – by Jerry Burnes (Mesabi Daily News – June 27, 2018)


DULUTH — President Trump brought his “America First” brand of politics with him to Duluth, where the iron mining industry found the friend it expected when he was elected into office a year and a half ago.

Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs have faced broad criticism from business groups over global trade war concerns, but on Minnesota’s Iron Range, are widely popular. His decision in December to reinstate mineral leases to Twin Metals Minnesota, which is prospecting an underground copper-nickel mine near Ely, drew praise from industry advocates.

Trump held a roundtable with Iron Range community and business leaders, miners and industry advocates on June 20 in Duluth and made a proclamation at the following rally that promised to throw out a federal land withdrawal, which Trump said were minerals placed “under lock and key” by the Obama administration. Continue Reading →

[Minnesota Mining] TAKING THE FIGHT OUTSIDE – by Angie Riebe (Mesabi Daily News – June 27, 2018)


When Cindy Stene drives across the Iron Range these days, she becomes rather emotional. During a recent trip from Grand Rapids to Ely to Gilbert and back, “I had tears in my eyes — seeing all the signs that have sprung up,” she said.

She’s talking about “Iron Range Proud” yard signs. Displayed prominently under the word “PROUD” is the hashtag: #fight4miningMN. Stene and 12,000 of her closest friends have been fighting that fight together now for a good year and a half.

Though she lives in Grand Rapids, Stene’s family has called the Ely and Babbitt areas home. And she, along with Joe Baltich, owner of Red Rock Wilderness Store and Northwind Lodge near Ely, joined forces to get the ball rolling on a fight that’s improtant to so many. Continue Reading →

[Minnesota Mining] ‘IT IS A HISTORY WORTH TELLING’ – by Leah Ryan (Mesabi Daily News – June 27, 2018)

SOUDAN — “If you haven’t been [to the Soudan Underground Mine] it is one of the three or four drop-to-your-knees outstanding experiences you can have at a state park,” said Erika Rivers, director of State Parks and Trails at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

June 7 was the ribbon cutting of the new campground at Vermilion State Park, in the same area as Soudan Underground Mine State Park. “The camping opportunity here with the mine will create a historical learning experience,” said Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. “It is a history worth telling.”

“The Soudan Underground Mine is one of the most awesome places in the state of Minnesota,” said Parl Manager Jim Essig. “It showcases the heritage of the people of the Iron Range. Plus, it is a lot of fun,” Essig couldn’t help but adding with a genuine smile. Continue Reading →

BUILD STEEL BRIDGES NOT STEEL CAGES – by Aaron J. Brown (Hibbing Daily Tribune – June 24, 2018)

Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college instructor from Northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio (

We’ve outlived our immigrant ancestors. Imprints of hungrier times remain etched on our communities, but they are easy to ignore. The fight for workplace safety and fair pay. The demand for free public education. The streets and amenities built to last beyond the mines on the edge of town. The shared humanity of the many over the tyranny of the few.

But I cannot escape a terrible notion. Transported to another time, the surnames painted in charming fashion on our Northern Minnesota cabins would have been the names on the clipboards outside the immigrant camps we read about in today’s news. Continue Reading →

Trump touts ‘America first’ policies in Duluth warehouse – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – June 20, 2018)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday spent more than an hour in a Duluth harborfront warehouse talking about iron ore and copper mining, trade and his relentless effort to cut government regulations.

In one of his patented “roundtable” discussions, Trump was in friendly territory with about 200 supporters — many of them representing mining, construction and shipping interests — gathered in a spruced-up Lake Superior Warehousing building in the shadow of the Blatnik Bridge.

Trump talked about renegotiating trade deals to put American interests first, and he praised his administration’s efforts to slash government regulations across the breadth of the nation’s economy, including mining. Continue Reading →