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 →

Iron Range Fourth of July 2017

It’s time for another Iron Range Fourth of July in Northern Minnesota. Regardless of economic or political winds, the region always unites for its uniquely exuberant observation of Independence Day, which lasts several days (up to a month) as celebrated in local custom. Below is MinnesotaBrown’s 2017 Iron Range Fourth of July listing for parades, fireworks displays and street… Read More →

U.S. Steel CEO Longhi to retire; Burritt takes over

One of the Mesabi Iron Range’s largest mining companies will be under new leadership next month. Mario Longhi, CEO of U.S. Steel, will retire June 1. Company chief operations officer David Burritt will take the helm. U.S. Steel is an integrated steelmaker, meaning that the company mines its own ores, produces steel in blast furnaces, and finishes… Read More →

From horse and buggy to hybrids, the woman who lived history


My great-grandmother Ruby Peck died Feb. 26, 2017 at the age of 103. For most of my life she lived alone in a small house set amid the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania. My great-grandmother was a rock-ribbed Republican who voted that way because the GOP was the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S…. Read More →

Cliffs boasts big earnings, state support in Essar battle

Last week, Cliffs Natural Resources CEO Lourenco Goncalves announced that his company posted a $199 million profit in 2016. That reflects a positive swing of almost $1 billion from the dismal 2015 downturn of the American steel industry. It’s also basic math, as Cliffs finally has all its Minnesota mines up and running, filling orders… Read More →

Keewatin Taconite will reopen in March 2017

WDIO reports that Keewatin Taconite will reopen in March 2017, ending a 19-month shutdown. U.S. Steel announced it signed pellet contracts with third party steelmakers, providing the spark to reopen the long dormant Keewatin plant. KeeTac was the last taconite mine on the Range still closed after last year’s steel downturn, which at one time had… Read More →

U.S. Steel vows (nonspecifically) to restore 10,000 jobs

In recent days, we’ve been talking about the general improvement of stock and commodity prices as they relate to Mesabi Range iron mines. One of my key observations was that despite the surge, U.S. Steel’s Keewatin Taconite remained closed after 18 months. Well, stop the presses. Maybe. On Wednesday, U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi said on… Read More →

Iron Range uncertainty endures even as iron ore surges

Last night, history professor Jeff Manuel and I spoke to a patient, nice-sized crowd at the Grand Rapids Public Library about the past, present and future of the taconite industry on the Mesabi Iron Range. Our conclusion was as follows: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ OK, perhaps that’s a little glib. Point is, you look at the short term you… Read More →

Grandpa has something to tell Grandma

Gray skies hang low over the idled Keewatin Taconite plant. I meet my grandpa, Marv Johnson, at the very busy Sinclair gas station. We’re on a secret mission. “Too crowded,” he says. I peek around the corner at the gas station’s only table and chairs. Several townsfolk stare back like whitetail deer. Grandpa’s already back… Read More →