Science can solve mining risks, but only if we demand it

As a nerd who grew up on an Iron Range junkyard, I appreciate anything that combines groundbreaking science with homemade contraptions. That’s why I’m fascinated by a daisy chain of unobtrusive barrels floating in an old Erie Mining pit outside Babbitt, Minnesota. They may save our world. Jeff Hanson put them there. Hanson is an… Read More →

See all the trucks go by

Diesel fuel smells like home. It reminds me of the idling school bus and the pungent workshop at my family’s junkyard in 1986. Trucks leave deep treads on my memories. Big yellow mining trucks dot the landscape of the Mesabi Iron Range as they have for generations. I played with a Tonka Truck as a… 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 →

A billion reasons why PolyMet debate misses the point

“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said, “I say! You are blocking my path. You are right in my way. I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north. Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!” “Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax. “I always go south, making south-going tracks…. Read More →

Make or break moment for Iron Range mining projects

I’m part of a tortured, high-strung group of people who receive regular e-mail and social media updates about the mining business. It’s part of my duty to better understand the industry that shapes Iron Range history and its current economy. And in recent months the news has been far less depressing than usual. For instance,… Read More →

Pinning hopes to billions we don’t have

Let us, for a moment, suspend the old debate about mining projects in Northern Minnesota. You know the one. Jobs vs. the Environment. “Twin Citiots don’t care about us” vs. “Dumb Rangers don’t know what’s good for them.” I’ve long argued this as a false choice. It distracts from the real problem in Northern Minnesota’s… Read More →

There be titanium dioxide in them thar’ hills

If you’ve never heard of titanium dioxide, you’d qualify as normal. But you’ve probably used white paint, eaten red candy, or applied sunscreen before. All of those products use titanium dioxide. So do plastics and some electronics. The stuff sells at $3,200 per metric ton. Today, researchers release a report showing that the Iron Range region could… Read More →

Trump’s tricky American steel promise

What happens when the promise of political change meets the rocky cliffs of reality? Every president, every Congress, every legislature must weather this shift. History shows that all suffer at least some political fallout in the process. There’s a reason incumbent parties tend to lose seats in the midterms, and that presidential approval (usually) starts high… Read More →

From pipelines to mines, Trumpism on the march

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order clearing the way for the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects. Both projects were stalled under President Obama out of environmental concerns. Citing the jobs the projects would create and promising American-made steel in the construction process, Trump waved his order in front of… Read More →

On PolyMet and the price of hope

This week, the U.S. Forest Service announced the approval of a land swap with the PolyMet Mining Corporation. The government will release 6,650 acres of federal land in Northern Minnesota to PolyMet in exchange for 6,690 acres of non-federal lands. Essentially, PolyMet gains access to a large contiguous section of forested land located within its… Read More →