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 →

Proposition 54, where are you?

Last Saturday, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party central committee voted down Proposition 54, a controversial resolution that would have placed the party in opposition to sulfide ore mining. Now, an aside. I earnestly considered whether or not to headline this post about a failed DFL resolution with pun that relates to a black-and-white TV comedy that aired before I was… Read More →

Trusting the wolves, hastening our fate

May 25, 2000: The morning after LTV Steel announced it would close its Hoyt Lakes taconite plant, miners lined up outside the Workforce Center in Virginia, Minnesota. Each wanted to be first to submit a job application to another mine on the Mesabi Iron Range, none of which were hiring. Though employed to monitor youth… Read More →

Louisiana Pacific eyes Cook for siding plant

During the 2016 legislative session, the prospect of a potential Louisiana-Pacific wood siding plant in Northern Minnesota drove the agenda of the Iron Range legislative delegation. The original concept made Hoyt Lakes the preferred site. A deal in the tax bill offered tax incentives, but the tax bill never became law. So the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board… Read More →

Heat (and hustle) is on for big Range project

A $440 million wood siding plant on the Iron Range. More than 800 jobs. Economic diversification. It’s hard not to get excited about information like this. But, as usual, the big bluster requires closer inspection. For instance, how much of that $440 million will come from public sources? At least $40 million, according to this Bill… Read More →