Archive | Minnesota Duluth Complex and Iron Range

Battle escalates over mining moratorium near BWCAW – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – June 2, 2017)

Conservation, hunting and angling groups are battling back against U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s effort to undo a moratorium on mining on federal land near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Groups such as the Izaak Walton League of America and Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters kickstarted a campaign this week for supporters to call Nolan’s offices and tell the Democrat from Crosby to leave the two-year mining ban and a proposed environmental review in place.

On Thursday, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters ratcheted up the debate by purchasing a full-page ad in the News Tribune. They’ve also scheduled a noon rally Friday in front of Nolan’s Duluth office. Continue Reading →

Minnesota officials tried to avoid another mining failure – by Don Davis (Duluth News Tribune – June 19, 2017)

ST. PAUL — Minnesota leaders hope a lease they are offering to a new mining company will reverse a decade of frustrating failure in one area they felt held lots of promise.

Officials who feel they were burned by Essar Steel Minnesota, which did not fulfill state taconite mining requirements, then declared bankruptcy, on Monday, June 19, folded what they hope are iron-clad guarantees into a new mineral lease. They hope the new mining company will produce taconite and turn it into an in-demand iron product where Essar Steel failed for years.

Also Monday, it appeared the White House is on the cusp of a major decision about whether to impose new restrictions on steel imports, a choice that has divided President Donald Trump’s administration while sparking global fears about a burgeoning trade war. Steel imports have been blamed for recent years’ economic woes on northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range, where taconite is told to produce steel elsewhere. Continue Reading →

Update: Judge approves Essar bankruptcy settlement – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – June 13, 2017)

Chippewa Capital Partners has reached an agreement with Gov. Mark Dayton over mineral leases at the former Essar Steel Minnesota project in Nashwauk, removing one of the last obstacles to a bankruptcy settlement approved this morning in Delaware.

The agreement allows Chippewa — a joint venture of London steel and energy conglomerate GFG Alliance and Roanoke, Va., billionaire Tom Clarke — to take over the bankrupt, half-built taconite iron ore mine and processing center, restart construction and start mining and processing ore by 2020.

India-based Essar pumped $1.8 billion into the Nashwauk project over seven years but then walked away in late 2015, out of cash and more than $1 billion in debt, filing for bankruptcy last July. Continue Reading →

Mining interests, partners seek to polish Iron Range’s image – by Peter Passi (Duluth News Tribune – May 25, 2017)

Some of the Northland’s most prominent players aim to reboot the Iron Range’s image with a new promotional publication unveiled during a press conference at Glensheen Mansion Thursday morning.

The glossy 16-page magazine is meant to burnish the Range’s reputation, said Mark Phillips, commissioner of the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board.

Often, Phillips said he encounters “very antiquated visions of the region” that date back to the days of miners working with picks and shovels instead of state-of-the-art technology. He said the notion of the Range as an economically depressed area also seems to persist. Continue Reading →

United Taconite opens new iron pellet plant on Iron Range – by Dee DePass (Minneapolis Star Tribune – May 17, 2017)

The $75 million investment in Forbes, Minn., signals another economic bump for Iron Range.

In another positive sign for Minnesota’s Iron Range, the parent company of United Taconite has started production at its new $75 million Mustang “superflux” pellet plant in Forbes, Minn.

Ohio-based Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. said the project “was flawlessly executed,” on budget and on schedule after nine months of construction. And firing up the plant equipment had no hiccups on its first day.

“Building a new facility on budget, without any lost-time accidents, and in only nine months through the Minnesota winter is no small undertaking,” said Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves. Continue Reading →


For just shy of $1.3 million you could be the owner of a yacht currently docked near Vancouver, British Colombia.

Made of virgin teak, this century-old wooden pleasure ship has been on the market a couple years. Apparently, today’s oligarch-on-the-go simply doesn’t have the time to maintain such an antique. I can distinctly recall my father’s frustration trying to restore and maintain my great-grandfather’s wooden speedboat. The boat seemed almost allergic to water, which was decidedly unhelpful.

But this craft in the Pacific Northwest is much more than a speedboat. And it’s been well cared for. At 125 feet of Depression-era opulence, this particular ship hosted billionaires and Congressmen, celebrities and the ruling class. It cost $421,000 to build in 1930, nearly $6 million in today’s dollars. Continue Reading →

Cliffs reports loss, but increased iron ore sales – by John Myers (Duluth news Tribune – April 27, 2017)

Cliffs Natural Resources lost $30 million in the first quarter of 2017, saying it spent more on efforts to reduce its debt and improve its long-term corporate health. The $30 million loss included a $72 million cost for restructuring debt in February. The company has cut its debt to about $1.6 billion compared to $2.5 billion at this time last year.

The company’s first quarter adjusted EBITDA — earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization — was $92 million, up 156 percent over last year. EBITDA is considered a good measure of a company’s current operational health.

Cliffs reported consolidated revenues of $462 million, up 51 percent from last year, due to increased sales and higher prices. The company’s U.S. iron ore pellet sales volume in the first quarter of 2017 was 3.1 million long tons, a 63 percent increase when compared to the first quarter of 2016 as a result of increased demand by its customers — domestic steel producers. Continue Reading →

STUDY: MINING INDUSTRY JOBS WORTH MORE THAN TOURISM – by John Myers (Hibbing Daily Tribune – April 20, 2017)

DULUTH — With claims by some mining critics that tourism is a more sustainable option than copper mining for northern Minnesota, and with the federal government mulling a moratorium on new mining near the Boundary Waters, industry officials have fired back with a new study that claims mining jobs still drive the regional economy.

Mining supporters say the study offers proof that mining and tourism can co-exist but that tourism doesn’t stand up to mining in terms of economic impact. Mining Minnesota, the copper-nickel industry trade group in Duluth, paid for and released a report Tuesday, April 18, by the Praxis Strategy Group that covered Cook,

Lake, St. Louis, Carlton, Koochiching and Itasca counties in northeastern Minnesota and Douglas County in Wisconsin. The study found current iron ore mining and directly related industries such as railroads and shipping employ 5,140 people earning $419 million annually, when all of the region’s operations are open and running. Continue Reading →

Cliffs CEO headlines Duluth mining conference – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – April 19, 2017)

Lourenco Goncalves had engineers and company executives laughing in their chairs at a mining conference Wednesday with his one-liners and brutally honest opinions of his competitors, but he said he’s deadly serious about trying to gain control of the former Essar Steel project in Nashwauk.

Goncalves, CEO of Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources, says his company’s is the only serious offer for the former Essar Steel Minnesota project that may go up for auction in a Delaware bankruptcy court next week.

Goncalves was speaking to the annual conference of the Minnesota chapter of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration Inc. at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Continue Reading →

Cliffs, Chippewa Capital Partners make bids for the former Essar Steel Minnesota – by Dee DePass (Minneapolis Star Tribune – April 11, 2017)

Assets of the Iron Range facility are at stake.

Two firms, both already with interests on the Iron Range, have made bids for the holdings of the former Essar Steel Minnesota as a bankruptcy reorganization deadline nears.

An investor group called Chippewa Capital Partners submitted its bid to the bankruptcy court in Delaware for $250 million as part of a proposal to take over and complete the half-built taconite plant in the Nashwauk, Minn. Mesabi Metallics, the former Essar Steel Minnesota, said Chippewa is associated with the group that bought several properties from the bankrupt Magnetation.

Just as Chippewa made its play, the Ohio-based Cliffs Natural Resources — which operates Hibbing Taconite, United Taconite and Northshore Mining and has already bid for the mineral rights associated with the Nashwauk site — has offered $75 million to buy the assets of the former Essar project. That bid has not been filed with the court. Continue Reading →

Environmental lawsuits pile up as PolyMet mine crawls forward – by Dan Kraker (Minnesota Public Radio News – March 31, 2017)

There will be plenty of work in Minnesota in the coming months and years for environmental attorneys. Four lawsuits have already been filed that could potentially delay the PolyMet copper-nickel mining project proposed for northeastern Minnesota. And several more are expected if the state eventually grants the mine the permits it needs to begin construction.

The suits are a key tool for environmental groups trying to block the controversial project. Some of the plaintiffs, including the Sierra Club and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, are well-funded organizations and no strangers to litigation.

Others are small, grassroots groups, like the Save Lake Superior Association and Save our Sky Blue Waters, which along with the Duluth chapter of the Izaak Walton League filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s recent approval of a land exchange with PolyMet. Continue Reading →

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 →