Good times roll on the Range, in theory

Another development on the growth of salvage mining operations on the Iron Range was reported today. Magnetation and a related company are teaming up to recover ore from an area near Chisholm. The St. Louis County Board is expected to approve the work at a meeting today, according to a story by the Duluth News Tribune.

I neglected to mention in my related post yesterday that Keewatin Taconite received some of its necessary permits to expand its operations in the small town just over the Itasca County line from Hibbing.

There’s so much mining news these days it’s hard to keep up. The net effect is a great amount of stability in the Range’s largest industry. However, our unemployment numbers aren’t particularly great and that’s owed to the fact that mining doesn’t employ as many people as it used to. Even with all the new and proposed mining activity there is a distinct ceiling on employment in that sector and only the most optimistic of projections would generate enough economic growth to single-handedly restore local schools, for instance, to the quality and program availability of the early 1980s or even 1990s.

We have a new 21st century economic conundrum on the Range: What do you do when the good news is mixed with the bad? We need look no further than the taconite process. You separate out what you can use, you pile up what you can’t use on the edge of town and you make something that people want to buy or do something people want to pay for. Pellets, yes. And more.


  1. The taconite process, Magnetation, Essar…great examples of the American people’s innovativeness, industriousness, drive to compete, ability to make the world a better place. Without them, the mining industry on the Range would have disappeared long ago, with the natural ore process

    Our conundrum isn’t with the mining industry, it’s with our Education Industry.

    What have they done to innovate, keep us competetive with the changing world? What have they done to “separate out what we can use, pile up what we can’t use on the edge of town, competetively make something that people want to buy or do something people want to pay for?

    That’s the 21st conundrum the Range is facing.

  2. I agree with you. The mining companies have modernized themselves quite well, hence why they’re outperforming the rest of the economy right now. It’s remarkable, actually. Now, they adapted out of necessity after the collapse of the ’80s and part of their success is due to their reduction of workforce. That meant the decline of the ’80s is over for the mines and the 10-15 percent of Rangers who work there, another 15-30 percent in related industries. A large part of the population never recovered. And now it really is an attitude problem in the culture, not just in the institutions.

    I think you and I agree that we need more innovators, entrepreneurs and “big world” thinking in early, K-12 and higher education.

    I’m still nervous that we have no backup to the mines for raw job creation in the region. I think you’re seeing a bigger gap between Duluth and the Range in diversification, Duluth’s unemployment way below the state average and even the current mining prosperity of the Range.

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