Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

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 →

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 →