Ruling on steel dumping short term relief for long term issue

Iron Range newsOn Friday, the United States Commerce Department ruled that recent low-cost imports of foreign steel violated trade rules and imposed tariffs on the predominantly South Korean steel products. This was the outcome domestic steelmakers, steelworkers and leaders here on Minnesota’s Iron Range had hoped for after the major rally against steel dumping held here two weeks ago.

“Today’s decision is a huge victory for Minnesota steelworkers,” said Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. “I thank President Obama and the U.S. Commerce Department for acting to halt this illegal dumping, which threatened the jobs of hard-working Minnesotans.”

Earlier last week, Dayton and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) had written a letter to President Obama asking for action on foreign steel dumping. And while the move to secure fair markets for American steel might have been the presumed outcome the whole time, such action is rarely simple. Simply, global trade now has many moving parts.

This represents a specific victory for domestic iron ore and steel production, but also signals a long term concern. Steel is a notoriously cyclical commodity and, even though controlled by tariffs, foreign dumping might cue at least a modest correction in coming years. Nevertheless, the last ten years have created an American mining and steel industry that, while much more automated, is remarkably stable compared to previous decades.

As far as the Iron Range is concerned, I’d be most worried about continued consolidation and automation during the next correction to the market. We might see some temporary shutdowns in coming years, followed by new advances like remote controlled trucks or shared processing facilities. This might be a few years out, but I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see it sometime this generation. Mining jobs will remain good jobs: highly skilled, well paid and safer than ever. But we’ll never see 10,000 miners on the Range again. Never ever.


  1. Think about what you’re saying Aaron – “I’d be most worried about continued consolidation and automation”. Automation & increased productivity has and always will be good for humankind.

    I realize that when one is immersed in academia, an atmosphere where productivity is terrible, even frowned upon due to tenure, it’s improbable to feel the stress necessary to improve productivity. But look at history, it’s proven time and time again that when we boost productivity, we improve economic growth & improve people’s life’s…without exception. It’s what all Rangers should strive for.

    • Where did I say automation was bad? What I said was that automation was happening, and that will affect employment numbers in the extraction industry. As a region, as I’ve often said, our strategy must include economic diversification to reduce reliance on extraction.

      I’ve had several colleagues at my college laid off in recent years. We are constantly engaging new strategies to increase enrollment, improve outcomes and place more people in good-paying jobs. Your comments about my profession are wrong. They’re also insensitive. But I suspect that was your goal.

  2. Ranger47 says

    Sorry Aaron, I made the mistake of assuming when you said you’re “worried” about increased automation, it was a bad thing. I guess one can worry about good things happening. My fault, not trying to be insensitive.

    I don’t wish to distract from the guts of your article (Obama enforcing existing laws), we’re in full agreement on that. But I’d be interested in the data you have which shows MnSCU’s, or closer to home, Hibbing Community College’s increased productivity.

  3. Taylor Johnson says

    I think something being good for shareholders of mining companies or the macro economy of the United States is very different from something being good for the micro economy of northeastern Minnesota while automation would likely lead to higher profits and cheaper steel for the country it will also lead to job losses in this area which are bad, no matter how one slices it.

  4. Ranger47 says


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