Steelworkers contract talks test strong market

This month contract negotiations opened between the United Steelworkers of America and two big steelmakers, U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal. Already, the union says the two sides are far apart. Workers hope for a better outcome than the last labor negotiations in 2015. That contract froze pay and added costs to retirees. However, it also held… Read More →

Another chance for western Mesabi mine

Billionaire Tom Clarke and his Chippewa Capital Partners will have a chance to finish the $2 billion Mesabi Metallics iron mine and pig iron plant at the former Butler Taconite plant in Nashwauk. On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced that the state will restore mineral leases withheld from the project after the bankruptcy of its… Read More →

Bovey seeks ‘Grace’ wherever it may be found

Not many states have an official state photograph, but here in Minnesota we do. Eric Enstrom took the picture “Grace” in 1918 at his studio in downtown Bovey, Minnesota. I wrote about the back story last year. This iconic image appears in homes and churches across the Christian world, so ubiquitous and replicated that people… Read More →

Summer 2018 brings color to Range communities

I drive through Nashwauk, Minnesota, most days. It’s a nice little town, but a little worn down. That’s not unusual for the cities of the western Mesabi Iron Range. These boom towns bloomed in a white pine wilderness a century ago, each at the mouth of a specific iron mine. Now that mining is more… Read More →

Bankruptcy petition mires Iron Range mine project

Creditors filed a petition last week to force Tom Clarke’s ERP Iron Ore into Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Minnesota Power shut off electricity to the former Magnetation property. Clarke told the Duluth News Tribune that ERP would pay back most creditors this week and work out a solution to the impasse with Minnesota Power. ERP… Read More →

Remembering my old neighbor Jack Lynch

During my blogging hiatus last week I received word that my old neighbor Jack Lynch passed away May 16 at the age of 83. Jack was a longtime reporter and editor for the Hibbing Daily Tribune, technically retired but still a fixture in the newspaper. Kelly Grinnsteiner, editor of the Tribune, wrote a lovely story about… Read More →

In Ely, canoe rides 26.2 miles on YOU

I’ve never run a marathon. Further, I’ve talked to enough runners to know that I’m a good year from being able to do so without requiring medical attention or adult diapers. And I’m fine with that. I don’t want to run a marathon. Nevertheless, I’m always intrigued by the psychology of those who do. In… Read More →

Science warns that more cattails means more methane

Northern Minnesota is no stranger to cattails. These common reeds grow seed pods that look like corn dogs, but are, in fact, filled with downy fluff. (You only make that mistake once). In fact, during World War II Northern Minnesotans earned money harvesting cattails to replace cotton in pillows, furniture, life vests, seat cushions and… Read More →

Empire Mine backers pitch future project to Cliffs

Workers and local leaders in Northern Michigan want Cleveland-Cliffs to locate its next value-added iron plant in the U.P. rather than here on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. A community group in Marquette began organizing efforts to woo the mining company to its historic home in Michigan. This brings another twist to the ongoing saga over what… Read More →

Leaders scramble to save Hill Annex Mine State Park

Hill Annex Mine State Park is surely an oddity among state recreational facilities. You can’t camp there. Virtually every natural feature you see emerged from the wholly unnatural act of removing iron ore from the ground. Nevertheless, the Calumet, Minnesota, park represents a glimpse back into time, and provides important context to what happens to… Read More →