Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

COPPER-NICKEL GOES ON TRIAL – by Leah Ryan and Jerry Burnes (Mesabi Daily News – March 16, 2017)

DULUTH — With the federal government weighing a 20-year moratorium on mining activity in the Superior National Forest, Minnesotans took to the microphone for their side of the issue, essentially turning Thursday’s U.S. Forest Service hearing into copper-nickel’s most public trial.

Hundreds of people crowded into Symphony Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center wearing their side on their sleeve. Mining’s supporters donned “We Support Mining” blue baseball hats and buttons, countered by T-shirts and stickers saying “We love the BWCA.” Thursday’s hearing was the culmination of the often tense, always at odds debate over copper-nickel mining at the edge the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely.

“There is a big crowd, and that tells me a lot of people find this important,” said Connie Cummins, supervisors of Superior National Forest, addressing the crowd before the hearing. Continue Reading →

Pro-development Minnesotans sue Governor over cancelled mine leases – by Andrew Topf ( – March 6, 2017)

In a case that appears to turn the logic of citizen actions against mine owners on its head, a group of Minnesota residents is suing the state and the Governor over a decision to revoke mineral leases.

While disgruntled residents opposed to mines usually go to court to try to stop the mine, the legal case in the Midwestern state centres around whether the state government and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton violated state law and the U.S Constitution by interfering with mineral lease renewals for Twin Metals Minnesota and Franconia Minerals, which are planning on mining copper and nickel in northern Minnesota.

Among the plaintiffs are a group calling itself Up North Jobs Inc., which aims to promote job growth and economic development in the area. Continue Reading →


ELY — Ely has always been a mining town. It was in the days when 177 people moved from the village of Florence in 1880 after ore was discovered and the community was mined through. It was when those residents named the town after mining executive Samuel B. Ely, a Michigander, who as legend has it, never stepped foot in the Vermilion Range.

And Ely cemented itself as a mining town when the Pioneer Mine — and 41 million tons of ore — opened in 1889. By the time it closed in 1967, 11 mines opened near the city’s limits.

What makes Ely unique from the others situated on the old Vermilion Range and the current Iron Range is that it has always been a tourist town, too. Even before 1978, when Congress established the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, people flocked to the northern edge of Minnesota for its pristine lakes and access to nature largely unbeknownst to the urban jungle of the metro. Continue Reading →

CLIFFS MARKS 170 YEARS OF MINING – by Jim Romsaas (Mesabi Daily News – February 21, 2017)


Founded by 11 men from Cleveland in 1847, Cliffs Natural Resources is now known as North America’s largest producer of iron ore pellets. Celebrating 170 years as a company in 2017, Cliffs has been independent for all of the company’s long history and has a very positive outlook for this year, as well.

“The significance of this milestone cannot be over-emphasized. How many U.S. companies can state that they have been instrumental in building and shaping our society since 1847? Not many,’’ said Lourenco Goncalves, chairman, president and CEO of Cliffs.

Cliffs, which has weathered the ups and downs of the industry and also world events, now has Minnesota operations at United Taconite (Eveleth), Hibbing Taconite, and Northshore Mining in Silver Bay. Continue Reading →

Cliffs profits bounce back with iron ore demand – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – February 9, 2017)

Cliffs Natural Resources, the nation’s largest supplier of taconite iron ore, rode the recovering domestic steel industry back to profitability in 2016, posting a net income of $199 million compared to a net loss of $748 million in 2015.

The Cleveland-based company on Thursday announced its revenues were $754 million last year, up 58 percent over a crippling 2015.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, Cliffs recorded a net income of $81 million, up from a net loss of $58 million for the last quarter the year before, according to the company’s quarterly report issued Thursday. Continue Reading →

Debate over copper mining near Boundary Waters heats up again – by Dan Kraker (Minnesota Public Radio News – February 2, 2017)

More than 50 protesters rallied outside the Duluth office of U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan Thursday, condemning the Democratic congressman’s letter earlier this week calling on the Trump administration to overturn a decision that called for a potential 20-year ban on mining on national forest land within the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

If the administration follows through on Nolan’s request, it could rekindle the efforts of Twin Metals Minnesota to develop a massive underground copper-nickel mine near Ely and the southern edge of the Boundary Waters.

The project offers the tantalizing prospect of hundreds of good-paying jobs in a region of the state hard hit by a downturn in the iron mining industry recently. But opponents argue potential water pollution, and the creation of a mining district in the national forest, threatens Ely’s tourism-based economy. Continue Reading →

DAUDT ASKS TRUMP TO GREEN-LIGHT MINING – by Jerry Burnes (Mesabi Daily News – January 23, 2017)

In the first week of the new administration, Minnesota’s Iron Range could feel the impact of President Donald Trump, who on Monday took executive action to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Later in the day, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt sent a letter to Trump asking him to reverse the Obama administration decisions to end mineral leases for Twin Metals, and reverse course on a proposed mining moratorium in Superior National Forest.

“We believe very strongly that we can access those natural resources safely,” Daudt said at a news conference Monday. “We know that the economy and jobs are dependent upon us growing the mining industry and the Range. We think we’ve got really good, safe opportunities to do that.” Continue Reading →

Mining progress will bring jobs, benefits to Minnesota – by Russell Hess (Post Bulletin – January 19, 2017)

Russell Hess, of Plainview, is political coordinator of the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota and a board member of Jobs for Minnesotans.

There is no doubt that we all want to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It is an undisputed national treasure, and we’re fortunate that it is in our own backyard.

That said, anyone implying that potential mining activities would destroy this pristine area shows a lack of understanding of the strict existing environmental and regulatory protections at the state and federal levels.

Twin Metals Minnesota, the company for which the federal government denied renewal of its mineral leases, has yet to even propose a project. The federal leases in question have been in place for more than 50 years and have been twice renewed by the federal government without controversy and with acknowledgment that the leases pose no adverse environmental impacts. Continue Reading →

[Minnesota] THE IRONY AND HYPOCRISY OF A MINING BAN EFFORT – Editorial (Mesabi Daily News – January 14, 2017)

On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service filed with the Federal Register its intent to close off more than 234,000 acres in the Superior National Forest to mining activity. To do so, the request has to go through comment periods and an environmental review, with the Interior secretary giving the final decision.

The potential irony of that process should not be lost. In its actions the BLM and USFS circumvented years of federal due process for the very mining projects at risk of being blocked. That process, most notably denied to Twin Metals, will sound familiar: a proposal, comment periods and environmental reviews.

The hypocrisy should also not be lost.

This effort by the BLM and USFS seeks a two-year moratorium on new mining projects and ultimately a 20-year ban on mining in the Rainy River watershed near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Continue Reading →

Essar Conglomerate Faces $1 Billion Lawsuit From Minnesota Unit – by Jacqueline Palank and Jacquie McNish (Wall Street Journal – January 11, 2017)

Essar Steel Minnesota accuses parent of hindering iron-ore mine, processing plant

A new lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion in damages from Indian conglomerate Essar Group for alleged misconduct related to a stalled Minnesota iron-ore mine and processing plant.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Essar Steel Minnesota LLC in its chapter 11 case, outlines “a myriad of damaging actions” parent company Essar Global Fund Ltd. allegedly took with respect to the subsidiary.

These alleged actions “exacerbated ESML’s cash starved financial position” and included transferring millions of dollars to affiliated companies not working on construction of the Minnesota mine, for “absolutely no value” in return. Continue Reading →

PolyMet clears major hurdle with federal land exchange – by Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – January 9, 2017)

A bitterly contested copper-nickel mine proposed for northeast Minnesota cleared another major hurdle Monday, when the U.S. Forest Service approved a deal to trade 6,650 acres of federally owned forests and wetlands to PolyMet Mining Corp. in exchange for 6,690 acres scattered elsewhere across that part of the state.

The exchange, while expected, is a critical part of PolyMet’s plan because it provides the company access to mineral ore it owns beneath the publicly held land.

“This is an incredibly important milestone for PolyMet,” said Jon Cherry, president and chief executive of the company. It means PolyMet has the rights to 30 square miles of land for its planned $650 million project near Hoyt Lakes, which the company says could create up to 350 jobs. Continue Reading →

CLIFFS CEO: ‘WE FEEL VERY COMFORTABLE’ – by Jerry Burnes (Mesabi Daily News – November 16, 2016)

Stable steel consumption has contributed to a recent rebound in iron ore prices, according to Cliffs Natural Resources CEO Lourenco Goncalves.

He presented Wednesday at the Goldman Sachs Global Metals and Mining Conference in New York, where he told the investors that demand, not the market, is driving prices. A constant domestic demand around 120 million tons is behind Goncalves projecting a $60 per ton price in 2017. “Things have been playing out the way we expected,” he said. “Iron ore is a commodity that can be controlled. Market control is not accurate.”

The biggest variable in the U.S. market for demand lately is illegally imported steel, a story that is old hat for mining companies across the region. Steel companies answered the question of how much imported steel was absorbed into the supply, Goncalves said, with four trade cases that led to high tariffs and the weeding out of foreign stock. Continue Reading →

Hearings this week may decide Essar mineral leases – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – November 13, 2016)

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Shannon will hold hearings Monday and Tuesday in Delaware that may decide the future of state mineral leases at the now-bankrupt Essar Steel Minnesota project in Nashwauk.

At stake are 350 Iron Range jobs, more than $1 billion of investment capital, tens of millions of dollars owed Minnesota contractors and millions of tons of top-grade iron ore under the Essar site.

The judge is weighing arguments by the state of Minnesota that the leases should be handed back to the state because Essar, which filed for bankruptcy in July, reneged on contractual commitments. Continue Reading →

It’s a gold rush in northern Minnesota – by John Myers (Grand Forks Herald – November 10, 2016)

COOK, Minn.—AngloGold Ashanti continues to move quickly in its efforts to find mineable gold in Koochiching County in far northeast Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports this week that AngloGold has submitted a plan to do exploration drilling on state-owned mineral leases about 20 miles west of Cook.

State mineral rights that are leased often sit for years, even decades with little or no action. But AngloGold is moving fast, first obtaining mineral rights from the state in March and then announcing in June it was ready to start a focused search for gold with basic tools. This is the first actual drilling at the site.

The DNR says AngloGold plans to drill 31 exploratory rotosonic borings within 19 active state nonferrous metallic minerals leases using “rotosonic drilling” — a high-frequency vibration of the drill bit to collect cores of unconsolidated glacial sediment and underlying bedrock. Continue Reading →

PolyMet launches next critical phase of controversial mine plan for NE Minnesota – by Josephine Marcotty (Minneapolis Star Tribune – November 3, 2016)

A monthslong review and more fierce debate over copper-nickel mining expected.

PolyMet Mining Corp. has formally applied for a permit to mine copper and nickel in northeast Minnesota, the first of its kind in state history and a key turning point in the long fight to establish a new but environmentally risky kind of mining in the region.

The 15,000-page application launches another extensive state review and is likely to set off a fierce new round of debate — this time over design of the mine, the loss of thousands of acres of wetlands, and how PolyMet would treat contaminated water decades after the operation closes.

The application also addresses a critical question that has hung over the project for years: How much money PolyMet will offer as financial insurance against future pollution and reclamation costs. It’s proposing $12 million for the first year of construction, $44 million for the second, and $197 million for the third. Continue Reading →