West Range Itasca County race takes shape

Last week I reported a vacancy on the Itasca County Board after Mark Mandich resigned his District 5 seat on the western Mesabi Iron Range. Two candidates emerged over the past few days. Ben DeNucci Nashwauk Mayor Ben DeNucci said he was running for the Itasca County Board. DeNucci owns a bar in Nashwauk and… Read More →

Itasca County commissioner resigns

Commissioner Mark Mandich resigned his seat on the Itasca County Board this week. The board accepted Mandich’s resignation at their meeting Tuesday. My sources tell me that Mandich cites health problems as his reason for stepping down. The Itasca County Board authorized a vacancy, instructing the county auditor to prepare a special election. Details on… Read More →

Mining for Dinosaurs

For decades, Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range has labored under the belief that most of our fossils were walking around above ground, not buried below. Now scientists exploring a state park on the western Mesabi seek to turn this notion on its head. Most Iron Rangers know the Hill Annex Mine State Park in Calumet as… Read More →

Essar ramps up Nashwauk construction

Construction is accelerating at the long awaited $1.9 billion Essar iron mine near Nashwauk, while Essar now says it’s optimistic about producing direct reduced iron products here. In a tour of the site on May 21 with Mitch Brunfelt, Essar’s assistant general counsel and director of government and public relations, I took pictures and observed… Read More →

A schoolhouse divided will not stand

Last week, the Nashwauk-Keewatin School Board voted to dissolve its shared services agreement with the Greenway School District on the western Mesabi Iron Range. Days later Greenway also backed away from most elements of the partnership. This marks the end of an experiment exposing many hard truths about the future of school and community collaboration on the Iron Range…. Read More →

Scenic Range NewsForum expands web presence

The Scenic Range NewsForum on the western Mesabi Iron Range recently launched its new website, a mobile-optimized site that tosses aside its clunky PDF reader-style predecessor. Along with this comes news that the Scenic snatched the low bid for becoming Itasca County’s newspaper of record, leaving the Grand Rapids Herald-Review to this painfully defensive story. As… Read More →

Range town mergers could protect jobs, services

One of the under-reported outcomes of last Tuesday’s off-year local elections was the overwhelming vote by the northern Minnesota communities of Carlton and Thomson to merge. In local media, this was portrayed as the simple matter of tiny Thomson’s overworked mayor and staff. In practice, however, these towns are providing a blueprint for many small… Read More →

Iron Range pumpkin patch power void

This weekend the Hibbing Daily Tribune reported that Nordic Ridge Gardens in rural Calumet will no longer be in the Iron Range pumpkin patch business. While Nordic Ridge will continue some of its berry operations, it sold off the land where the locally famous pumpkin patch and autumnal adventure world were held. This was one… Read More →

Essar Steel wants to preserve Hill Annex Mine State Park

Calumet’s water tower boasts of Hill Annex Mine. Essar Steel Minnesota, which is currently building a taconite mine near Nashwauk, released a statement today stressing that, despite having mineral rights in the area, the company does not want or plan to close the Hill Annex Mine State Park in Calumet. You may recall that there… Read More →

In which I pontificate in the rain on MPR’s Daily Circuit

You can hear me on Minnesota Public Radio’s Daily Circuit this morning at 9:50. (Archived below) Co-host Tom Weber was up on the Range recently and met with me (in the rain) outside Hill Annex Mine State Park to talk about how mining continues to change the footprint of the Iron Range. The chat was… Read More →