China and the Range: one degree of separation

Asian demand for steel has had a large and positive influence on northern Minnesota’s Iron Range economy for several years, mostly because of how it affects prices and demand for steel products. Chinese demand, in particular, fueled the historic Range taconite production of 2007 and early 2008. Chinese stagnation spurred the widespread shutdowns in late 2008 and 2009. Indeed, international steel demand seems to be leading indicator on the Range, which is why the Iron Range’s recovery is currently outpacing other parts of the Minnesota and the U.S.
This week Cliffs Natural Resources announced that it will now literally ship American taconite pellets to China and Japan because of said demand and high steel prices. Business North is among the publications reporting the news after a company statement on Tuesday. Obvious logistical and cost barriers have prevented this in the past, but new efficiencies and higher prices are changing all that. Cliffs is talking about shipping out of Quebec City via big lakers for now, but is considering using rails to take ore west in the future.

Globalization is not an abstract concept on the Iron Range. Some of the kids playing in the hockey tournaments paid for their skates and fees with money acquired because China is buying steel.


  1. The rollercoaster ride of the mining industry has, and will continue, for as long as there is the ever present demand for “OUR” iron ore.

    The whole of the Iron Range spends their hard earned $$$ on many things throughout the Range, and beyond, not just on hockey skates and fees!! 😉
    Nice page MB!!!


  2. I keep wondering about the cost ($$, fuel, use of ships, sailors, longshoremen, etc. plus transportation within the US and China) for all the goods that are shipped in our direction. Heavy goods. My futon couch/bed, for example. Machines. etc. etc. This seems never to be addressed. Isn’t it oil dependent? Won’t the cost rise because of the “situation” in the Middle East?

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